International Human Rights Day: Using Media and Tech for Social Justice

With major platforms like Facebook and Twitter constantly changing, and new apps emerging nearly every day, it's often hard to determine which of these tools and strategies are the best fit for a human rights advocacy campaign or non-profit organization, and it can be difficult to navigate the ethical dilemmas that arise when consuming and sharing social media.
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By Jackie Zammuto, Senior Engagement Coordinator

Human Rights Day is celebrated every December 10th. It's a day to recognize our inalienable rights and strengthen our resolve to stand up and fight for these rights. While this year brought more than its fair share of human rights abuse stories, it also showcased the innovative and impactful ways that activists and human rights defenders are using media and technology to shed light on injustices and call for change -- from cellphone videos exposing horrific police violence in the US, to activists on Twitter demanding accountability for a crippling garbage problem in Beirut, to media collectives in Rio organizing Whatsapp groups to notify favela residents of nearby shootings.

However, with major platforms like Facebook and Twitter constantly changing, and new apps emerging nearly every day, it's often hard to determine which of these tools and strategies are the best fit for a human rights advocacy campaign or non-profit organization, and it can be difficult to navigate the ethical dilemmas that arise when consuming and sharing social media.

Recently I was invited to discuss some of these challenges and successes with experts from Justice League NYC, Global Citizen and the Undisclosed podcast. The conversation, moderated by Tara Conley of Race Forward, touched on the role of citizen journalism and mainstream media in times of crises, the ethics of using citizen media in reporting and advocacy, social media campaign strategies, and working with celebrities to increase engagement.

Thanks to our friends at audioBoom who organized the event and turned it into an hour-long podcast. The segments will be released through December 10th. A selection of the available segments of the discussion are embedded below. In addition to each segment, we're sharing relevant resources or articles from our organizations that might be useful in your own work.

You can visit
or follow them on
or
for the latest clips. You can
also follow
all my fellow panelists:
  • Brandon Blackburn Dwyer (Global Citizen) @Brandon_BD, @GlblCtzn
  • Carmen Perez (Justice League NYC) @msladyjustice1, @NYjusticeleague
  • Tara Conley (Race Forward) @taralconley, @RaceForward
  • Susan Simpson (Undisclosed) @TheViewFromLL2, @Undisclosedpod
  • and we're at @witnessorg, I'm @jackiezammuto
Segment 1
Brandon Blackburn-Dwyer (Global Citizen) discusses how social media can be used in beautiful ways to build solidarity and organize, but it can also cause harm.

Highlight: "[Social media] amplifies what would happen anyway. And it--for both good and bad--brings it from your living room, from your street corner, to a global stage." - Brandon Blackburn Dwyer

Segment 2
Susan Simpson (Undisclosed), Jackie Zammuto (WITNESS), Carmen Perez (Justice League NYC) and Brandon Blackburn-Dwyer (Global Citizen) discuss the role that social media plays in the wake of global tragedies and other important events.

Relevant Resources: Read more of what WITNESS has to say on this in topic on this blog post about Alyan Kurdi, Adam Ward and Alison Parker.

Segment 3
Jackie Zammuto (WITNESS), Carmen Perez (Justice League NYC) and Brandon Blackburn-Dwyer (Global Citizen) share their thoughts on how indie or more community-originated media can compliment, influence or avoid the mistakes and bias of mainstream media.

Segment 4
Susan Simpson (Undisclosed) shares her thoughts on whether or not her podcast is an example of citizen journalism, and the ways in which media at every level is impacting the cases of people like Richard Glossip.

Relevant Resource: The Guardian highlighted the work of Undisclosed in this article "Serial, one year later: websleuths keep making discoveries in Adnan Syed's case"

Segment 5
Tara Conley (Race Forward) and Carmen Perez (Justice League NYC) discuss how social media affects the outcomes of protests and community interventions.

Relevant Resource: WITNESS' tips on Filming Protests and Police Misconduct and Conducting Interviews

Segment 6:
Carmen Perez (Justice League NYC) and Brandon Blackburn-Dwyer (Global Citizen) discuss which groups are using social media to broker change and whether or not social media is substantially different from mainstream media.

Highlight: "As we get used to social media, the same way that we got used to newspapers in the 20th century, we're going to have the same problem: what pops to the surface, what gets the attention? It will no longer be editors at the New York Times making that decision, it will be the mass public. But the mass public has proven to be just as fallible in this as editors at the New York Times." - Brandon Blackburn Dwyer

Segment 7
Tara Conley (Race Forward) asks the panelists to share their thoughts on the ethics of consuming and sharing content on social media.

Segment 8
The conversation on the ethics of consuming and sharing content on social media continues, and the panelists look at the increasingly blurry lines between activists, journalists and private citizens within an affected community.

Relevant Resource: This year, people in the US have repeatedly asked "What if there was no video?" -- Walter Scott, Sandra Bland, Phillip White, Laquan Mcdonald, etc. See WITNESS' research and resources on the role eyewitness video plays in cases of police violence in the US.

Segment 9
Tara Conley (Race Forward), Jackie Zammuto (WITNESS), Carmen Perez (Justice League NYC) and Brandon Blackburn-Dwyer (Global Citizen) discuss the pros and cons of paid promotion and sponsored ads on social media. Does the commercialization of a movement dilute its message?

Highlight: "We sometimes walk a tense line of 'do we use platforms that are more in-line with our values?' or 'do we go where the people are?' when trying to get out a message to a broader audience." - Jackie Zammuto

Segment 10
Jackie Zammuto (WITNESS), Carmen Perez (Justice League NYC) and Brandon Blackburn-Dwyer (Global Citizen) talk about working with celebrities to increase engagement and raise awareness about human rights issues.

Relevant Resource: The Wall Street Journal covered how Justice League NYC collaborated with Jayz Z to get the Brooklyn Nets to wear the Eric Garner quote "I Can't Breath" t-shirts.
Highlight: "When working with celebrities, it's important to treat them as a partner in the campaign and not just a person on a pedestal, otherwise it can seem disingenuous." - Jackie Zammuto

Catch the rest of the segments on the audioBoom site and share them using #RecordingInProgress.

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