As governments and security forces become more aware of the role of social media in coordinating protest movements they are developing new ways to block, hack and track citizen tweets, Facebook posts and other social-media messages.

The Frontline Club, an independent journalism organisation in London, held a panel discussion on Tuesday in association with the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) College of Journalism to debate the role of mobile apps that aim to empower protesters. Demonstrators and citizen journalists have an ever-widening range of virtual tools that can help them navigate safely around protest sites.

Two of the apps in focus during the discussion were web-based Sukey and the ObscuraCam camera app. Debate focused on whether apps would actually protect protesters and the value of citizen journalism vs “traditional journalism” in covering such events.

Blogger Christian Payne (@Documentally) spoke with AlertNet after the panel discussion, which was chaired by BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones. The panel included Sam Carlisle, developer of the Sukey app (with Sam Gaus), Tom Barfield of news website Demotix and Ryan Schlief of Witness, a non-profit human rights organisation.

Frontline Club: Protesters’ toolkit – revolutionary apps (mp3)

Picture credit:  People charge mobile phone batteries in the opposition stronghold of Tahrir Square in Cairo February 8, 2011. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem