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Tools to Protect Internet Freedom and Activists at Risk

By: Brenna Marea Powell

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 71 journalists have been killed in Syria and more than 80 kidnapped. Most of those have been killed for covering the war, and most of them were local. Only 11 were foreign reporters.

Syria is of course not the only place where journalists face serious threats to their lives — many of those reporting in countries torn apart by war, repressive regimes, or other violence are targeted for the work they do.  And in most cases, it is local journalists who are the most vulnerable.

One of the most important organizations working to protect journalists and activists is one you possibly haven’t heard of yet.  Working quietly, Internews has trained journalists in 80 countries — many of whom are under threat — providing them with tech tools to help them protect their identity, keep their data safe, and do their work in the most difficult circumstances.

This past week, BAIL was very pleased to work with Internews to organize a small Bay Area event on Internet freedom. The event was hosted at RiceHadleyGates by RHG co-founder Anja Manuel, who is also on the board at Internews.  Kathleen Reen, VP of ICT Policy and Programs at Internews, and Dylan Jones, Internews’ lead digital security trainer, spoke about their work to a room full of tech folks, academics, human rights advocates, journalists, and a few working with government.

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 11.22.37 AMKathleen and Dylan spoke about a number of platforms Internews has helped create to keep journalists and activists safe online, such as SAFETAG, as well as training programs in digital security like SaferJourno and LevelUp.

We also learned about the extraordinary, and extraordinarily proactive, measures that governments are taking to restrict Internet access and increase surveillance of their citizens’ online activities — from places like Thailand and Myanmar to the world’s newest country South Sudan.

It is incredibly compelling work.  The event was a perfect example of what BAIL is here for: convening folks across the private and non-profit sectors, government and academia, for conversation and collaboration around the most exciting and important international work happening right here in the Bay Area.

Thanks to Internews and thanks to everyone who made it to the event!

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Brenna Marea Powell is a BAIL co-founder and currently works with an interdisciplinary research center. She is interested in issues related to in intergroup conflict, conflict resolution, peacebuilding and governance. Brenna likes to bring academics and practitioners together and see what they can learn from each other. She is a graduate of Stanford and earned a PhD in Government and Social Policy from Harvard. Brenna is also the co-founder of a research group of social scientists who do policy analysis and impact evaluation.


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