A new online platform is using the principle of crowdsourcing to help human rights activists and dissidents all over the world.
The platform, called Movements.org and originally founded in 2007, was highlighted last week on the New York Times' solutions journalism blog, Fixes, and links activists in closed societies with skilled individuals around the world in professions like journalism, law and coding.
Movements.org merged with nonprofit Advancing Human Rights in 2010, and was officially launched as a crowdsourcing platform in August 2014 by Robert Bernstein, the founder of Human Rights Watch, and David Keyes, the executive director of Advancing Human Rights.
The platform focuses its work on countries that have populations of over 5 million and are classified as "Not Free" or "Partially Free" by Human Rights Watch's civil liberties index. So far this includes countries like Syria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, North Korea and China.
On the Movements.org home page, activists request skills like social media, translation, writing and editing, film and public relations. Over 10,000 connections have been made so far, according to the New York Times.
For instance, in February, the Islamic State militant group attacked Al Hasakah, Syria, and took 190 Christians and Assyrians hostage. Hadeel Kouky, a Syrian Christian refugee now living in the United States, requested media attention in a Movements.org post. The next day she was interviewed on Fox News. In another case, Ensaf Haidar, the wife of Raif Badawi, a Saudi Arabian blogger who was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for apostasy, posted about her fight against his sentencing and was able to get an article translated and posted to the Daily Beast, with whom Movements has a partnership.
Politicians and ministers from around the world also joined the site to solicit stories of human rights violations. Some of the offers to help come from individuals including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a former German defense minister and others from Canada, France and Australia.
Keyes compares the way the platform removes a middleman and facilitates connections to Uber, Airbnb and Amazon. Those companies "all recognized that there are millions and millions of people who need something and millions and millions of people who have something," he told the Daily Beast. "We’re doing the same for human rights."