How To Use Social Media In Human Rights Campaigning

Social media and digital technologies are increasingly changing the way we document and report on human rights abuses (Photo Credit: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/GettyImages).

Social media and digital technologies are increasingly changing the way we document and report on human rights abuses (Photo Credit: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/GettyImages).

I have previously discussed the many opportunities and pitfalls of social media for human rights research and advocacy, or if social media content could potentially document war crimes in Syria. This week I was invited to participate in a fascinating online discussion on how to incorporate social media into human rights campaigning. The conversation is organized by New Tactics for Human Rights and The Engine Room and is still open until the end of the week. We are off to a great start with around 35 comments, and visitors to the website this week came from more than 100 countries! If you are interested in this topic, I encourage you to share your experience and thoughts.

The conversation provides several examples of how social media has been used as a tactic by various human rights organizations and other NGOs. Examples from Amnesty International include our Bahrain Twitter action or Eyes on Syria campaign and use of a YouTube playlist in our campaign to establish a Commission of Inquiry on human rights violations in North Korea. Other case studies come from Greenpeace and El Salvador, among others. A current case study – which is still unfolding – is the #SaveBeatriz campaign.

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Inside Syria: Documenting The War On Civilians

Citizen video coming out of Syria continues to uncover abuses that would otherwise go unnoticed (Photo Credit: ZAC BAILLIE/AFP/Getty Images)

Citizen video coming out of Syria continues to uncover abuses that would otherwise go unnoticed (Photo Credit: ZAC BAILLIE/AFP/Getty Images)

As the Syrian crisis hits its two-year mark, the toll on civilians continues to grow exponentially. Peaceful protests that started in March 2011 were quickly met by government authorities responding with deadly force, leading to systematic and widespread human rights violations amounting to crimes against humanity. Followed by the escalation into a full-fledged armed conflict by mid-2012, today, both government and armed opposition forces continue pursuing a military solution to the conflict. Caught in the middle are civilians, paying a horrendous price for this deadly stalemate.

Based on field research conducted over the last weeks, an Amnesty researcher inside Syria uncovered new evidence of the government’s assault on civilians, and its outright disregard for the laws of war. This is most dramatically symbolized by the government’s recent ballistic missile strikes against eastern Aleppo, flattening entire blocks and killing 160 residents; or by the increased use of internationally banned cluster bombs.

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North Korea: Stories From The Forgotten Prisons

Explore the system of political prison camps in North Korea

Explore the system of political prison camps in North Korea

This is the first of several postings of the North Korea Revealed blogging series, published in the context of efforts to establish a Commission of Inquiry at the current session of the UN Human Rights Council (February 25 – March 22). Join the conversation through #NKRevealed.

I was born in North Korea in 1982. I was born in a political prison camp (…) and lived there until I escaped in 2005 (…) I was born to an imprisoned mother and father. —Shin Dong-hyuk, the only known North Korean born in a political prison camp to have escaped.

Shin’s shocking story personifies the horrors of North Korea’s vast network of political prison camps, believed to house over a hundred thousand prisoners. His story is emblematic for the daily forced hard labor, calculated starvation and torture that prisoners have to endure. It also reflects the system of collective punishment that results in the incarceration of several generations of one family, often for life. You can hear more from Shin on a new video playlist, together with testimonies of other escapees and exiles. Their voices urge immediate action to stop the horrors of the prison camps. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Twitter to the Rescue? How Social Media is Transforming Human Rights Monitoring

Syrian youths, inside a vehicle, film a protest against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with their phones in the northern city of Aleppo.

Syrian youths, inside a vehicle, film a protest against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with their phones in the northern city of Aleppo on October 12, 2012. (Photo: TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images)

Social media is increasingly helpful to not only monitor emerging human rights emergencies, but also to uncover incorrect information. A recent example is when Twitter helped me to spot incorrect contextual information on a newly uploaded execution video from Syria. This is just one instance in which crowdsourced expertise from social media can open up new opportunities for human rights organizations. Having that said, the challenges and pitfalls are numerous. I thought about these issues a lot while preparing for a Truthloader debate last week on how citizen journalism is changing the world. Current case in point is the upcoming elections in Kenya, which are probably the best (citizen) monitored elections in history.

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Want a One-Way Ticket to Guantanamo?

You may have already heard the bad news. The White House has had a change of heart and President Obama will likely not be vetoing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an appalling bill that would allow for indefinite detention and would keep Guantanamo open indefinitely. In short: The NDAA is a disaster for human rights.

It’s not too late to take action against the NDAA and give President Obama a piece of your mind. And you can also sign up to participate in our January 11th Day of Action Against Guantanamo in Washington, DC.

If you’ve had enough of the bad news, we’ve got a dose of comedy for you. Check out Amnesty’s new short video “Happy World Travel” for a look at what happens when Rob (Dileep Rao of Avatar and Inception) heads to a travel agency looking for a relaxing vacation. Will he be eligible for the “Not-so Geneva Package”?

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Doubts Cast in Gilad Shalit/Palestinian Prisoner Swap

Today, we woke up to find the exchange of Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, and 477 Palestinian prisoners.

As news services around the world covering the exchange highlight Gilad Shalit’s ordeal of being held for five years in virtual incommunicado detention and the story of the Palestinian prisoners being released – some having been held for decades – one thing is glaringly obvious – this whole episode highlights the need for the humane treatment of all detainees – whether Palestinian or Israeli.

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Palestinian Statehood Bid at UN and Its Implications

As you may have heard, Palestinian authorities have embarked on a major diplomatic effort to secure wider recognition of a Palestinian state and an upgraded status at the United Nations.  Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas recently submitted an application for full UN membership to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Palestine currently has the status of an observer entity at the UN General Assembly, where it is represented by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).  An application for full membership is currently being considered by the UN Security Council Committee on Admission of New Members.  The UN Committee will issue its analysis of the historic Palestinian bid for statehood around mid-October.

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Troy Davis And Faulty Witness IDs

In this picture, the tiny figure in the parking lot across the street is approximately where Troy Davis was, and the camera is approximately where Dorothy Farrell was, when, according to her trial testimony, she saw his face at 1:30 am. (She, like most of the witnesses, has since recanted).

© Jen Marlowe

“[J]uries tend to ‘over believe’ eyewitness testimony”. So says the American Psychological Association in its amicus brief  for an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case.  And Adam Liptak in the New York Times writes:

“ … it is perilous to base a conviction on a witness’s identification of a stranger. Memory is not a videotape. It is fragile at best, worse under stress and subject to distortion and contamination.”

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The Freedom Flotilla, Civil Disobedience and Government Collusion

Greece has offered to deliver any humanitarian aid contained on Freedom Flotilla boats to Gaza through “existing channels”.  Israel as well as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon have accepted this idea - except one thing - Greece’s offer misses the point.

In addition to the continuing humanitarian concerns, even after Israel’s ‘easing’ of restrictions and the recent ‘opening’ of the Rafah crossing by Egypt, there is the blockade itself.

Although this video was produced one year after operation ‘Cast Lead’ ended, former AI researcher, Francesca Burke, speaks about the difficulties in getting in materials to rebuild and recover from the devastation of the military conflict as well as the blockade which still holds true and relevant today.

Even if all the humanitarian needs of the population were relieved, the Israeli-imposed Gaza blockade would still violate the Gazans’ basic human rights.

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