20 juli 2017

Can we make social media work for human rights defenders?

Looking back

That is the question we asked to Hans de Zwart from Bits of Freedom, Fernando Hernandez from SMX Collective, Waqas, an activist and IT engineer from Pakistan and Imaculata, one of our Training Course (THTC) participants from Indonesia.

As one could expect considering the complexity of the question, their answers turned out to be quite diverse.

Fernando Hernandez opened the discussion with a simple response: “No.” Because, even though social media is important, it is not enough to build a more democratic society in Mexico and make people participate. He stated, however, that in his country social media help to highlight facts and expose crimes.

‘I doubt social media will bring us to justice. But it can maybe bring us to steps to get there?’

To Imaculata, social media is indispensable for communication in her field of work, and a useful tool. She makes a great use of WhatsApp, but keeps Facebook for private matters.

Waqas sees social media as a way to get justice, even though it got him into trouble to use it for satirical purposes.

‘There are goods at using the mass effect’.

Hans de Zwart tries to understand how the internet - which at first was meant to be a place to democratize society and keep governments away - turned into a threat. This happened through its commercialization and the building of surveillance.

‘The information became power.’

He would not use Facebook for his private life, but as a business, it is the tool that allows one to reach and mobilize people, in many parts of the world. ‘When you google your own name, that is who you are to the rest of the world.’

Alexey, our THTC participant from Russia, had a point when he concluded with this statement: ‘I can honestly say that social media is a mess.’