#Onlineactivism: More Than Tweets the Eye

New technologies and social media are enhancing social activism (Photo credit: Bay Ismoyo/AFP/Getty Images).

New technologies and social media are enhancing social activism (Photo credit: Bay Ismoyo/AFP/Getty Images).

By Natalie Butz, Communications Assistant at Amnesty International USA

It’s the phenomenon that’s spawned a thousand names and of course, its own hashtag. And ever since Malcolm Gladwell argued that “social media can’t provide what social change has always needed,” online activism has been critiqued as replacing on-the-ground grassroots organizing while offering only a fraction of the impact.

I thought about that argument last week as I stood with over 60 activists shouting chants and hoisting signs during Amnesty International USA (AIUSA)’s annual Get on the Bus event. Started in 1996 by a local AIUSA chapter in Somerville, Massachusetts, Get on the Bus is an annual day of human rights education and on-the-ground activism. The event’s name stems from its history; participants gather together on buses to rally at strategic locations on behalf of those whom governments would silence. Since its inception, Get on the Bus has spread to Amnesty International groups across the country, including New York City and Washington, D.C.

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Save Abdullah From the Ultimate Human Rights Violation

Abdullah al-Qahtani

Abdullah al-Qahtani

By Samir Goswami, Director of Amnesty International USA’s Individuals & Communities at Risk Campaign

Last week, we issued an Urgent Action to the disturbing news that Saudi Arabian national Abdullah al-Qahtani was at imminent risk of execution.

Abdullah was convicted of robbery and murder under Iraq’s Anti-Terrorism Law. While in custody, he was viciously beaten, burned and asphyxiated into “confessing” to being a member of al-Qaida. Four of Abdullah’s six co-defendants were executed last week and for a time, it seemed as though Abdullah was next.

But then, an amazing thing happened. We emailed a petition out to our Amnesty members and within 24 hours, received over 30,000 signatures.

Abdullah is still alive and pressure from activists like you likely helped spare his life. Today, Abdullah’s petition has over 40,000 signatures. But make no mistake – his execution is imminent. Abdullah’s attorney urges continued vigilance:

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What Happens When You Cry Wolf to the Kenyan Crowd

One of the recurrent challenges associated with utilizing social media outlets to report and monitor a situation during a period of time when ground events may or may not be rapidly developing (such as in Kenya): the situation is often times much more complex than 140 characters can convey, and the incorrect use of just a few words, could easily become an overflow of ingredients to an already bubbling human rights situation (Photo Credit: Till Muellenmeister/AFP/Getty Images)

One of the recurrent challenges associated with utilizing social media outlets to report and monitor a situation during a period of time when ground events may or may not be rapidly developing (such as in Kenya): the situation is often times much more complex than 140 characters can convey, and the incorrect use of just a few words, could easily become an overflow of ingredients to an already bubbling human rights situation (Photo Credit: Till Muellenmeister/AFP/Getty Images)

Like many others, I have been closely watching the Kenyan elections. In fact, these elections may be the most “watched” elections ever. I am not necessarily talking about observers on the ground. Digital tools, including social media outlets, have greatly enhanced remote monitoring capability, and have emerged as a major component in the Kenyan elections.

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New Generation of Online Activists Targeted in China

Hua Chunhui was detained after tweeting about the ‘Jasmine Revolution’ © Amnesty International

Jasmine Revolution.  Those two words simply uttered online elicit enough fear in Chinese leaders’ hearts to throw the writer in jail.

Online activists have long been at risk in China but the recent spate of arrests — following online calls for a ‘Jasmine Revolution’ in China — has gotten out of hand.  Chinese authorities are not only detaining seasoned dissidents; they are trying to silence a whole new generation of online activists.

More than 100 activists, many of them active on Twitter and blogging networks, have been detained, subjected to monitoring and intimidation by the security forces, or have gone missing since late February. The sweep is the worst since 2009 when thousands were detained following deadly riots in Urumqi.

The call for a ‘Jasmine Revolution’ in February consisted of online instructions to ‘stroll’ through designated public places on Sunday afternoons. Faced with a large state security presence, no significant gatherings took place.

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Unsilence Azerbaijan's Donkey Bloggers!

A satirical YouTube video showing a press conference by a blogger in a donkey costume was meant to make a point in ex-Soviet Azerbaijan. Instead, it got the activist and his associate behind bars. Now in jail and convicted of “hooliganism,” youth activists Emin Abdullayev and Adnan Hajizade hope that an appeals court will overturn their sentence next week. Both men (adopted by Amnesty International as prisoners of conscience) can really use your help. Take action now!

A Voice of America editorial summarizes the case:

Human rights monitors and many members of the international community are concerned over an Azerbaijan court’s decision to imprison Azerbaijan youth leaders Emin Milli [Abdullayev] and Adnan Hajizade to prison terms of 2-and-a-half years and 2 years respectively. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST