2011 has begun as a momentous year in the history and practice of nonviolent civil resistance. Tunisia and Egypt have sparked movements across North Africa and the Middle East as ordinary people rise up to resist the autocracy, corruption, and abuse they have lived under for decades. This method of struggle is by no means new, however. People throughout history have waged nonviolent struggle to gain independence, dissolve oppressive structures, and demand rights. With each new movement we are given an opportunity to learn from those who wage these struggles. Here’s what we can learn from Egypt…so far. (more…)

For those working in the field of conflict prevention and humanitarian assistance, reliable real-time data plays a critical role in staging a successful intervention.  As a recent discussion at the U.S. Institute of Peace with Dr. Steven Livingston made clear, the humanitarian policy world is dealing with an environment where data gathering technology is advancing at an exceptional rate.  The conversation then addressed the challenge created by all this technology; the sheer volume of incoming data can overwhelm policy makers and field-based practitioners. (more…)

The recent demonstrations in Belarus, Tunisia, Bahrain, and especially Egypt have all recently demonstrated the importance of the Internet and social media as an organizing tool for popular protest.  Twitter and Facebook have been crucial tools for organization and mobilization.  Governments have noticed this as well, and begun to target the internet. (more…)

U.S Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton – speaking on behalf of the Obama administration – expressed views on the power of media via a statement on 21st Century Statecraft:
“… We have seen the possibilities of what can happen when ordinary citizens are empowered by Twitter and Facebook to organize political movements, or simply exchange ideas and information… we have the potential to engage in these new and innovative forms of diplomacy and to also use them to help individuals be empowered for their own development…”
And engaging is indeed what the administration is doing. (more…)

The Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission, more commonly referred to as the CRTC, has recently ignited a firestorm among Internet users in Canada. In January, the CRTC announced the approval of a user-based billing (UBB) system.

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In the digital 21st century, Jürgen Habermas’ public sphere and Marshall McLuhan’s global village have gone electronic, hence citizen journalism and the blogosphere. In 2006, TIME magazine named ‘YOU’ person of the year, calling the Web “a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter.” The ‘YOU’ person of 2011 – at least for this year’s World Economic Forum event – is Canadian video blogger and citizen journalist Shawn Ahmed. (more…)

On July 4th 2009, Emin Milli — blogger and one of the Alumni Network founders —spoke at “a Heinrich Böll Foundation roundtable dedicated to a democratization process in Azerbaijan, where he criticized the Azerbaijani government strongly.” Four days later, on July 8th 2009, he and Adnan Hajizada — blogger and co-founder of the OL! Azerbaijan Youth Movement — were attacked at a Baku Café by unknown ‘sportsmen.’ The bloggers were arrested and the following days they spent in detention — which turned into months — became a blow-to-free-speech headline in cyber history.
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There has been much buzz recently in the social media community about a recent article published in The New Yorker magazine titled “Small Media” by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell questions whether, despite creating greater awareness and arguably greater access, social media has ultimately hijacked more traditional forms of public activism such as protests and gatherings? Gladwell’s point should not easily be dismissed, even if one is inclined to disagree with him, but rather considered critically. This question about the value of social media is one I have been struggling with myself. However, after attending a panel discussion this month featuring Rebecca Byerly, the only foreign journalist based in Indian controlled Kashmir, about extreme violence  this past summer – I gained some clarity and maybe those who sympathize with Gladwell can as well.

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In September 2010, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report titled “Looser Rein, Uncertain Gain,” A Human Rights Assessment of Five Years of King Abdullah’s Reforms in Saudi Arabia. In this report — in the “Greater Margin for Freedom of Expression” section — HRW discusses the paradox between King Abdullah creating a greater space for free expression, but still an ongoing repression of freedom to express critical opinions. HRW notes how the Saudi government censors free speech, with the help of legislation such as the 2007 Law to Combat Information Crimes, and how a new cyber law is brewing that would restrict expression via electronic media.

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