— macroscope

The FT’s Business Life Editor, Ravi Mattu (diclosure: Ravi’s an old friend) covered Cameras Everywhere in his FT column last Thursday (it’s paywalled, unfortunately):

When the Egyptian government shut down the internet during the protests in Tahrir Square, it was seen as a form of repression.

Should access to technology now be seen in the same way as access to, say, clean water? And does this mean that the companies behind those technologies have a particular moral obligation to their users?

The authors of Cameras Everywhere, a report published earlier this month by Witness, a non-governmental organisation focused on using video to expose human rights abuse, argue that they do. (Full disclosure: Sameer Padania is the report’s co-author and a friend.) They looked at the role of mobile telephones and social media, as well as technology providers including Google, Twitter and Dailymotion, in documenting human rights abuses.

It’s a sign of the enormous shifts around us that even a paper like The FT can find room on its pages for a relatively specialised report of this kind. Next step is to encourage media outlets with paywalled content to make their human rights stories publicly accessible…

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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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Bettina Peters, Director of the Global Forum for Media Development, an association of around 500 media assistance groups around the world, kindly invited me to introduce the new WITNESS Cameras Everywhere report to GFMD members in the latest GFMD Insider briefing. Here’s a cross-post of the piece, which speaks particularly to those involved in media assistance and journalism.

—–

Cameras Everywhere: Video , Human Rights and Media

When I spoke on behalf of the human rights organization WITNESS at the 2008 Global Forum for Media Development conference in Athens – about what the emerging ecosystem of citizen video meant for media development, journalism and human rights – the Greek capital was itself in the throes of major protests and civil unrest. Like many other attendees, I went to Syntagma Square to take a look for myself. As I walked the protest route, I tweeted about the march, the clashes with police, and the aftermath – and I uploaded a few eyewitness videos. But I was one of the few, if not the only, conference participants doing so, it seemed.

Fast forward to today, and this kind of eyewitness video is increasingly central to human rights work – and journalism. It has been critical in drawing attention to corruption, torture, denial of rights, and repression around the world.  More human rights video is being captured and shared by more people in more places than ever before, often in real time. It is happening in organized and spontaneous ways, by people with training and without. And unlike the past, when this footage was largely mediated through news media, much of it is reaching the public unfiltered. Video, often live video, alongside other social media, was critical in the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East. Media and the public have relied on these firsthand accounts to a striking degree.

These videos are shared, however, in corporate social media spaces and via mobile phone carriers (YouTube, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Vodafone, for example), many of which never before regarded themselves as having a stake in human rights. This is bringing a new range of players – often unwittingly – into the human rights field. By virtue of the sheer numbers of people using their products to report and expose human rights violations, these companies have both a stake and a say in how human rights are understood and handled worldwide, and they are increasingly being pressed to meet these responsibilities.

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