Celly: A Mass-Text Social Network for the Occupy Wall Street Movement

At 1:03 a.m. on Tuesday, Betabeat received a text message. “URGENT: Hundreds of police mobilizing around Zuccotti. Eviction in progress!” We have no idea who was behind the missive, but it was the first news alert we got about the eviction—the text came in even before we saw it on Twitter. This is TextOccupy, a mass-texting listserve powered by Celly, a free group texting service based in Portland, Ore. that in the past has focused on use in schools.

“Celly/TextOccupy has been embraced by Occupy movements coast to coast, particularly #OWS and #OPDX,” cofounder Russell Okamoto wrote in an email. “In the last week, we’ve sent a quarter million messages on behalf of the Occupy movements.”

It’s as if the Occupy Wall Street movement is building a technological infrastructure for all the mass protest movements of the future. “#OWS directly engaged us to integrate voice alerts into Celly,” Mr. Okamoto wrote. “We designed, built, tested, and deployed that feature last week for them.”

More than 4,000 members have created more than a dozen groups, he said, and OccupyTogether, one of the national Occupy movement coordination sites, directly engaged the startup for a nation-wide text alert system.