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I’m somewhat belatedly posting my notes for a presentation I gave at a convening in May 2011 on Media, Social Media, and Democratic Governance at Wilton Park (here’s a PDF of the conference programme, and POLIS Director, Charlie Beckett’s notes from his presentation are here.).

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“The Internet Is Not A Horse”: presentation at Wilton Park, May 2011

Over the past few months, I’ve been working with the human rights organisation WITNESS on a new initiative that aims to help those using video for human rights to do so more safely, more ethically and more effectively. As part of this initiative, we have produced a report [published in September 2011], called Cameras Everywhere, as WITNESS’ first toe in the waters of technology policy.

Why would an organisation that has focused on advocacy campaigns to expose and end specific human rights abuses suddenly decide to engage in the world of technology policy? Finding and sharing new ways to use new technologies for documenting and exposing violations remains a central part of what WITNESS does. But in the process of building and running human rights projects that involve technology, we have been forced to confront a range of extremely thorny technical, legal, editorial and ethical challenges woven through the evolving communication environment. And in conversations with technologists, say, we’d raise issues about ethics, and they’d say, “Well, we’d never thought about it that way.” And with policy-makers, “Ah, now I hadn’t really thought about the human rights impacts of copyright enforcement.” Or with NGO colleagues, “Well, we’d like to be more involved in debates about technology, but we don’t know where to start.”

We felt it important to share in an accessible way the lessons we have learned, and to try to stitch together a perspective for our partners, donors and fellow activists, for technologists building the tools we all use, and for policy-makers who set the laws and policies that govern these same technologies. Law and policy set and shape the parameters for what technology can do – indeed law is sometimes embedded within technology – and therefore what it is possible for activists (and citizens more broadly) to do, and what protections they can enjoy and exercise.

This report is based both on our own analysis and experience, and on more than 40 in-depth interviews with highly-placed experts from settings as diverse as academia, technology policy, grassroots activism and broadcast journalism. We hope that it will provide a springboard for further discussion and help bring these various stakeholders a few inches closer together in common understanding and dialogue.

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In two weeks’ time, I’ll be moderating a workshop at the Silicon Valley Human Rights Conference, on a topic dear to my heart:

Visual content and human rights - Visual content has changed our world – how do we manage its impact on society, governance, and privacy?

Panelists:
Sam Gregory, Program Director, WITNESS
Thor Halvorssen, Founder, Oslo Freedom Forum
Victoria Grand, Director, Global Communications and Policy, YouTube
Hans Eriksson, CEO, Bambuser

I’ll draw in part on Cameras Everywhere, but what topics and issues would you like me to raise with these panelists? Let me know either via a comment below, or tweet me.

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I spoke at last Thursday’s The Power of Information conference in London, organised by the Indigo Trust, the Institute for Philanthropy, and the Omidyar Network, on a human rights-focused panel alongside Stephanie Hankey of Tactical Technology Collective, Erica Hagen of GroundTruth / MapKibera, John Kipchumbah of SODNet, and Patrick Meier of Ushahidi (here’s a picture of the panelists, and here’s the Indigo Trust’s video of my talk). I also summarised this panel on a plenary round-up at the end of the day (here’s a video and a PDF of the notes I was talking from – in case you’re wondering what I was gesticulating about). [Text updated on 23 Sept to include videos from Indigo Trust. And on 26 Sept to add Indigo Trust's coverage of the Cameras Everywhere report.]

My talk slides and words (a mix of what I wrote and on-the-day adaptations) are after the “more” link below. Before that, and besides the WITNESS Cameras Everywhere report I drew on for my presentation, here are the principal resources I mentioned on both panels that might be of interest both to attendees at the conference, and to those who followed the hashtag #giveandtech.

Interesting recent research:
- Joe Karaganis of the SSRC’s epic Media Piracy in Emerging Economies (2011) – if you are searching for empirical research on copyright and intellectual property around the world, this is an essential read (see also the Washington Declaration below).
- Aeron Davis’ 2009 paper New Media and Fat Democracy, on how ICTs are creating wider gaps between a growing empowered core of citizens, and a much larger group of disengaged citizens (thanks to Ben Wagner for the pointer).
- Andrew Chadwick’s new paper The Hybrid Media System, which takes aim at false dichotomies between new and more established media.
- UNESCO’s recent Freedom of Connection, Freedom of Expression report.

Collaboration between multiple stakeholders:
- The remarkable Washington Declaration on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest (and my personal perspective on it).

Talking to donors: 
- Chris Blattman makes the case to DfID for conducting R&D, rather than M&E, in a recent post and presentation (PDF) called Evaluation 3.0.
- [not mentioned on the day, but very useful nonetheless -->] James Deane, Head of Policy at the BBC World Service Trust, and my former boss at Panos London, on lessons he has drawn from recent high-level meetings on talking with donors about media development – but which seem instructive for, and broadly applicable to ICTs and human rights too.

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