How To Use Social Media In Human Rights Campaigning

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

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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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Amnesty is nominated for a Webby!

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As if one major video nod wasn’t enough, now we’ve got a second video nomination to brag about!

Our video “Words”, produced by Curious Pictures, has now been selected as a final nominee for the 14th Annual Webby Awards.

This is a huge deal and we’re truly honored to be nominated.  (Yeah, we know everyone says that!) But we’re also really serious about coming on top in this fantastic group of competitors!

But to win a Webby, we’ve got to rally support like never before!  Register on the Webby website to cast your votes before April 29th. Then, we hope you’ll help us spread these “Words” to your friends and family:

Amnesty International’s video “Words”, produced by Curious Pictures, has been nominated for a  Webby!  I already cast my vote for this awesome video, so now I hope that you’ll do the same! It’s really easy, just register, then vote.  Click here: bit.ly/advi5X

Thanks for voting for “Words” and spreading the word about the power of human rights!

Vote for the Power of Words!

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You may remember last year when YouTube premiered our animated video “The Power of Words” on its homepage with an introduction by actor, Morgan Freeman.

Vote for 'The Power of Words' in the DoGooder Nonprofit Video Awards.

Vote for 'The Power of Words' in the DoGooder Nonprofit Video Awards.

We’re pleased to announce that this video has been nominated in this year’s DoGooder Nonprofit Video Awards!  We’ve got some stiff competition in the Best Innovation category, so please cast your votes for human rights before midnight EDT on April 7th.

Here’s how to vote:

Sign into your YouTube account (or if you don’t have one, it’s free and easy to create).  Then, on the Nonprofit Video Awards page, click on the “Vote” button and search for “Power of Words”.  To cast your vote, click the green ‘Thumbs Up’ icon below ‘The Power of Words’ video display.

Your support of human rights was our inspiration for this video. Help us ensure ‘The Power of Words’ comes out on top!  Share this video with your friends and ask them to vote too. Until the winners are announced, we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed!

Get everyone on YouTube talking about human rights!

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Today, we’re premiering our video homage to supporters who help spread human rights stories far and wide! YouTube is featuring our new, animated video “The Power of Words” on its homepage with an introduction by actor, Morgan Freeman.

The video demonstrates why the messages you send and the petitions you sign really matter.  It is your words that remind violators of human rights, in countries like Zimbabwe, China and Iran, that their actions are unacceptable and opposed by millions.

Check out the video and then help us get the word out about human rights by emailing 5 friends about it. We want everyone on YouTube talking about human rights!

Iranian Protesters Stay One Step Ahead in the Cyber World

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In the face of a tightening government grip on all things viral, Iranians have managed to circumvent the communication restrictions laid upon them to tell the world their story in ways previously thought to be reserved only for social networking. For anyone who has so much as glanced at the news during the past week, Twitter has been the name of the game for Iranian protesters.

With a limitation of 140 characters per post, only the most pertinent information is tweeted—rally locations, real-time updates, and details only those on the ground can see. While sites such as Facebook and Twitter have been blocked off before, Iranians have continued to gain access to them via proxies, servers that allow users to access another site through them. Proxy sites are continuously being updated in an effort to stay one step ahead of the Iranian government’s filtering apparatus.

The Iranian government’s strategy for blocking the flow of information appears to be two-fold. Foreign news services have all been asked to leave (just this morning, the BBC reporter Jon Leyne, one of the few reporters left, was given a similar request) and the internet speed has been slowed to a snail’s pace. According to the Wall Street Journal, limiting bandwidth in this manner is meant to discourage and frustrate users so much that they’ll give up.

This strategy is, for now, not working. Iranians have harnessed the internet in ingenious ways—from their Twitter posts to uploaded YouTube videos. All major news networks have caught on to the phenomenon, allowing the messages coming out of Iran to truly reach the entire world.

Samah Choudhury contributed to this post

China Blocks YouTube, Google Plays Dumb

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In case you haven’t heard, Google announced a few days ago that YouTube had been completely censored in China. According to the New York Times, “Google said it did not know why the site had been blocked…”

“We don’t know the reason for the block,” a Google spokesman, Scott Rubin, said. “Our government relations people are trying to resolve it.”

Give us a break, Scott.

It’s widely speculated that the Chinese government was less than happy about footage of Chinese soldiers beating Tibetans appearing on the site.

But this is old news. Really old news. China has been censoring the internet since it was introduced back in 1994. Web sites promoting democracy, human rights (including Amnesty International’s), and banned religions, such as Falung Gong, are restricted in China. Actually, pretty much any web site critical of the Chinese government is banned. 

Experts believe China operates the most extensive, technologically sophisticated and broad-reaching system of internet filtering in the world – “The Great Firewall of China.”

And the big web players, specifically Yahoo! and Google, have been acting as accomplices. Early in 2006, Google launched a self-censoring Chinese search engine, google.cn, that blocks search results for banned topics.

The freedom to information and expression is a human right. But apparently, profits come before people at Google.

Don’t play dumb, Google. Don’t be evil.