Digital activism


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Digital activism. How we can use new media to change society.

Presentation first made at the Brighton and Hove Socialist Party. Hopefully I'll be presenting it again to colleagues at NixonMcinnes and maybe more. Notes attached, sources all referenced as there's a lot of direct quotes! Basically collected commentary from all over the internet so I didn't write hardly any of this myself - I just curated it!

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  • Internet activism (also known as online organizing, electronic advocacy, cyberactivism, E-campaigning, and E-activism) is the use of electronic communication technologies such as e-mail , the World Wide Web , and podcasts for various forms of activism to enable faster communications by citizen movements and the delivery of local information to a large audience. Copyright © Imparta Limited 2002 – 2008 All Rights Reserved
  • Background / history of the internet The Internet was the result of some visionary thinking by people in the early 1960s who saw great potential value in allowing computers to share information on research and development in scientific and military fields. Copyright © Imparta Limited 2002 – 2008 All Rights Reserved
  • and military fields. Copyright © Imparta Limited 2002 – 2008 All Rights Reserved
  • The Internet was designed in part to provide a communications network that would work even if some of the sites were destroyed by nuclear attack. If the most direct route was not available, routers would direct traffic around the network via alternate routes.   Since the Internet was initially funded by the government, it was originally limited to research, education, and government uses. Commercial uses were prohibited unless they directly served the goals of research and education. This policy continued until the early 90's , when independent commercial networks began to grow. Copyright © Imparta Limited 2002 – 2008 All Rights Reserved
  • Broadcast vs Peer to peer Beth Granter Traditional media e.g. TV, newspapers, radio are broadcast mediums, from mainstream editorial teams acting under the influence of government and corporations, particularly those which show advertising. The communication is unidirectional from top down, with little opportunity to speak back or for the public to be heard. Copyright © Imparta Limited 2002 – 2008 All Rights Reserved
  • Web 2.0 changed this – by making the publishing of content really easy and accessible to everyone with access to the internet, with no requirement for technical expertise. This meant anyone could write a blog, publish their own website, upload videos to video sharing sites (youTube), post on messageboards/forums (publicly or privately) and collaborate on user generated encyclopaedias (Wikipedia). The public was now able to describe and define the world in its own terms. Copyright © Imparta Limited 2002 – 2008 All Rights Reserved
  • Peer to peer production is different:  it is center-less and it is non-hierarchical. Even if someone is organizing, that person has no more power than any other member of the project.  There is no center and edge.  There is only the network. What would this mean in the political realm? Crowdsourced politics means that the center benefits ultimately from the divided labor.  The effects of crowdsourcing might be in the public interest, but even though execution of the task occurs at the edge, the ultimate decision of what the activity will be is decided at the center. It is this form of political organizing, peer-to-peer not crowdsourced, that has the greatest potential to truly challenge existing institutions.  Copyright © Imparta Limited 2002 – 2008 All Rights Reserved
  • Groundswell / grassroots web activism Beth Granter When the public report on news stories, the mainstream media is unable to cover up world events, as people are talking directly to each other (peer to peer communication / many to many). This circumvention of the mainstream means citizen journalism puts pressure on mainstream media to be more transparent and democratic. A well-known example of early Internet activism took place in 1998, when the Mexican rebel group EZLN used decentralized communications, such as cell phones, to network with developed world activists and help create the anti-globalization group Peoples Global Action (PGA) to protest the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva [7] . The PGA continued to call for "global days of action" and rally support of other anti-globalization groups in this way. [8] Copyright © Imparta Limited 2002 – 2008 All Rights Reserved
  • The most famous citizen journalism site these days is Indymedia which allows anyone to publish news from their area and has a huge activist readership.   The Indymedia project was started in 1999, to allow participants in the anti-globalization movement to report on the protests against the WTO meeting that took place in Seattle, Washington, and to act as an alternative media source. By 2006, the Indymedia network had grown to what is now over 150 Indymedia outlets around the world.   However, in 2004 during anti-globalisation protests around the world, a US court order forced the firm hosting Indymedia to hand over two servers in the UK, showing that central governments can still take control when things get too contentious. Info-Activism is what happens when rights advocates turn information about their issue into action that will address it. Info-Activism involves the strategic use of tools and tactics for social change. Copyright © Imparta Limited 2002 – 2008 All Rights Reserved
  • Why Twitter?,8599,1905125,00.html It's free, highly mobile, very personal and very quick. It's also built to spread, and fast. Twitterers like to append notes called hashtags so that they can be grouped and searched for by topic; urgent tweets get RT. and they can be received and read on practically anything with a screen and a network connection.   This makes Twitter practically ideal for a mass protest movement, both very easy for the average citizen to use and very hard for any central authority to control. On June 13 2009, when protests started to escalate, and the Iranian government moved to suppress dissent both on- and off-line, the Twitterverse exploded with tweets from people who weren't having it, both in English and in Farsi. While the front pages of Iranian newspapers were full of blank space where censors had whited-out news stories, Twitter was delivering information from street level, in real time. Copyright © Imparta Limited 2002 – 2008 All Rights Reserved
  • But just as emerging technologies bring new opportunities, they also present new challenges by introducing new methods for suppression, censorship and breaches of privacy. censorship in the form of blocking popular online services like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter has been on the rise recently, at times most critical for info-activism work: for example when Twitter was blocked post-elections in Iran and in China alongside other social media sites such as YouTube, two days before the 20th anniversary of the crackdown on democracy protests in Tiananmen Square.,8599,1905125,00.html But there are counter-countermeasures to this kind of censorship . Sympathetic observers outside Iran set up "proxies," servers that relay Twitter content into Iran through network addresses that haven't been blocked yet. When the Iranian authorities discover such a proxy, they block it too. Protesters are also organizing denial-of-service attacks against government websites — coordinated efforts to shut down their servers by flooding them with traffic.   It's quite possible that the government finds Twitter useful as a way of monitoring protesters, gathering data on them and even tracking them down. There are also signs that the Iranian government may be infiltrating the Twitter network itself, manipulating it to its own advantage. This tweet went out over the network earlier today, and was itself retweeted more than 200 times: DO NOT RT anything U read from "NEW" tweeters, gvmt spreading misinfo.   Twitter didn't start the protests in Iran, nor did it make them possible. But there's no question that it has emboldened the protesters, reinforced their conviction that they are not alone and engaged populations outside Iran in an emotional, immediate way that was never possible before.   Totalitarian governments rule by brute force, and because they control the consensus worldview of those they rule. Tyranny, in other words, is a monologue. But as long as Twitter is up and running, there's no such thing. Some of the most compelling videos we see are those that spotlight important issues that aren't being covered in the mainstream media. Witness , a nonprofit organization whose mission is to document human rights abuses around the world through video, offers an excellent example — their channel chronicles the clashes between the Burmese military and rural ethnic minorities. Copyright © Imparta Limited 2002 – 2008 All Rights Reserved
  • Source: DanMcQuillan – amnesty international anti censorship campaign If you have a website or blog, help us spread the word and undermine unwarranted censorship by publishing censored material from our database directly onto your site. The more people take part the more we show that freedom of expression cannot be repressed. Copyright © Imparta Limited 2002 – 2008 All Rights Reserved
  • Source: DanMcQuillan Bahrain - The country’s Internet filtering regime focuses on political Web sites that are critical of the Bahraini government and ruling family but also targets content related to pornography, gays and lesbians and content that is critical of Islam. In August 2006, Bahrain banned access to Google Earth for three days. Soon after the blocking of Google Earth, cyberactivists circulated via e-mail a PDF file with annotated Google Earth screenshots of Bahrain highlighting what they claimed as the inequity of land distribution in Bahrain. 37 The file can be found at . Copyright © Imparta Limited 2002 – 2008 All Rights Reserved
  • Source: DanMcQuillan   Geo-bombing Tunisian activists linked tens of video testimonies of Tunisian political prisoners and human rights defenders to the Tunisian presidential palace’s location on Google Earth. Now, as you fly over the Tunisian presidential palace on Google Earth you will see it covered with the very same videos about civil liberties which Ben Ali was trying to prevent Tunisian Netizens from watching by blocking Youtube. Copyright © Imparta Limited 2002 – 2008 All Rights Reserved
  • Project Chanology (also called Operation Chanology [1] ) is a protest movement against the practices of the Church of Scientology by members of Anonymous , a leaderless Internet -based group that defines itself as ubiquitous. The project was started in response to the Church of Scientology's attempts to remove material from a highly publicized interview with Scientologist Tom Cruise from the Internet in January 2008. The project was publicly launched in the form of a video posted to YouTube , "Message to Scientology", on January 21, 2008. The video states that Anonymous views Scientology's actions as internet censorship , and asserts the group's intent to "expel the church from the internet". This was followed by distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS), and soon after, black faxes , prank calls , and other measures intended to disrupt the Church of Scientology's operations. In February 2008, the focus of the protest shifted to legal methods, including nonviolent protests, and an attempt to get the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the Church of Scientology's tax exempt status in the United States. Copyright © Imparta Limited 2002 – 2008 All Rights Reserved
  • Digital economy bill   Anyone who has been following the evolution of the Orwellian “Digital Economy Bill” understands that this bill is a complete travesty of rational legislation and the method by which it was passed into law after just a few hours of debate was cartoonish. In the great “wash up” before the election, both political parties conspired to let this law be passed without any due scrutiny.   Reasons why debill is bad Perhaps key among them is that it contains a provision which allows “Copyright Holders” to identify any Internet Provider (IP) as being responsible for the distribution of their content illegally.  Once this happens, the business or individual associated with that IP address can be penalized without the tiresome necessity of turning up in a court to present evidence.   As described in the Guardian “ Earlier the government removed its proposed clause 18, which could have given it sweeping powers to block sites, but replaced it with an amendment to clause 8 of the bill. The new clause allows the secretary of state for business to order the blocking of “a location on the Internet which the court is satisfied has been, is being or is likely to be used for or in connection with an activity that infringes copyright. ”   Sometimes there are good reasons for copyrights to be violated.  In the US for example, the website this week exposed what appears to be the “Collateral Murder” of many innocent civilians in Iraq by US Army Soldiers in an Apache Helicopter.  Distributing that content, and other whistle-blower content “owned” by governments and private enterprises engaged in criminal activity, is almost always a violation of their copyright. Copyright © Imparta Limited 2002 – 2008 All Rights Reserved
  • I don’t want sites like Wikileaks to get shut down without due process of law. Wikileaks remains in business now in the US because in order to shut them down, the criminals responsible for the documents they distribute would have to turn up in a court to levy the charge . . . which would result in their arrest. The Telegraph describes this new law as a “ Nightmare of Unintended Consequences “. Part of the coalition agreement does call for a Great Repeal Bill but says nothing about whether or not the Digital Economy Act will form part of it. For now, the Digital Economy Act will remain law. Additionaly the new UK government’s Conservative culture secretary Jeremy Hunt told paidContent:UK "We’re not going to repeal it," . Julian Huppert, the new Lib Dem MP for Cambridge, has started a ‘Early Day Motion’ to get MPs from all parties to publicly call for repeal.   Copyright © Imparta Limited 2002 – 2008 All Rights Reserved
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    11. 14. virtual Sit-in at Tunisian Presidential Palace