Posts

Nextview Event: From personal stories to concept-prototype

“I’ve never done it before. So I think I can do it.”

– Pippi Longstocking

 

By Nina Nout

We held our Nextview Event on June 19 surrounded by inspirational quotes in the beautiful workshop space of the Nextview Design Centre on the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven. We had the opportunity to collaborate with Nextview on this ideation session, an innovative company which specializes in combining design thinking and technology. With their expertise and know-how for the day, we designed the first concept-design of our Early Warning System prototype.  Needless to say, it was a very productive day!

We had the pleasure of welcoming people from a variety of fields, from human rights defenders, tech experts, designers, and interested students. Most of our team also attended the event, so we could collaborate with others to create a concept design for our Early Warning System technology.

We started the day with general information on the structure of the event and information about our projects. We also invited human rights defenders to speak about their lives and the importance of ethical technology to support human rights activism. After that, we split up into two groups. We dedicated the rest of the morning to the exploration phase, where we discussed the problem, context and the needs of human rights defenders.

 

Shucheesmita draws attention to important moments in her activist journey using a Journey Map.

 

We created journey maps based on the lived experiences of the human rights defenders present at the event. In one group, we followed the journey of a Bangladeshi feminist activist who became the target of human rights violations. We established the key points in her story and discussed how online harassment against her began and escalated.

In the other group, the journey map detailed the story of a man who shared his story from Islam to atheism online. The subsequent storm of online harassment caused him to quit social media for a number of years. After which, he began to build connections and communicate again on social media, this time more aware of the risks of his activism online and offline.

Even though both journey maps had different stories, we found some distinct similarities between the two stories. The journey maps showed that both human rights defender did not intentionally set out to become activists. Their first activity did not come from a political or activist point, but from personal experience and opinions. This meant that they became aware of the importance of safety and privacy online only at a later stage in their work. The lack of a trustworthy source of information about online safety and what actions to take when they received threats was a common theme in both stories.

Despite the similarities, there were also clear differences. An important point that became clearer during the conversations with human rights defenders was that every human rights defender had different experiences and a threshold for what they considered a “serious” threat.

The nuances that came to light during this day proved the importance of trans-disciplinary design sessions . Offering reliable tech solutions takes more than one hackathon. We need to think, discuss and adapt our projects constantly to bring the separate worlds of human rights and technology  together throughout the problem-solving process. Another quote that we were reminded of at Nextview is the old saying: “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” This is also why we need the infrastructure and resources to follow-up with the innovative ideas that come out of ideation sessions to transform them into concrete technologies.

 

One of the groups discuss the shape and characteristics of their Early Warning System technology concept-prototype.

Based on the journey maps, we began to design our tech solutions. Both groups designed variations of the Early Warning System technology. This technology takes into account the individual stories and viewpoints of human rights defenders but also monitors online trends and movements. We have since been busy with the development of these design ideas and have come up with a concept-prototype of the Early Warning System technology. Currently, we are working towards being able to make our first prototype.

Even though it’s summer we have not been sitting still on our other activities either. The Hague Hacks co-organized an informing session for the World Legal Summit on August 1st with The Humanity of Things and The Embassy of Canada to the Kingdom of the Netherlands. We were also invited to speak and educate a dynamic and talented group of youth from CISV about safe practices for activists on social media, as well as guide them through an ideation session to brainstorm new technologies for hate speech online. Several interesting ideas emerged, and the youth were excited about the possibility of seeing these ideas come to life!

We have also begun preparations for our third The Hague Hacks Festival this December. We’re very excited about this, and will update you on the latest news on our blog and our social media channels!

If you are interested in The Hague Hacks, or if you would like to learn more, collaborate, volunteer, or just want to drop a note, we’re happy to hear from you. Send us an email at haguehacks@thehaguepeace.org .

Design for Activism

By Nina Nout

On June 13, we had the pleasure of hosting our Design For Activism lab at the Border Sessions Festival. The goal of the lab was to design a workflow that creates opportunities for tech experts and companies to support human rights activists online. In other words, we wanted to find out how we can engage tech companies long term in order to establish and maintain a sustainable cooperation between human rights defenders and tech companies. In this lab, we also wanted to introduce people to the issues human rights defenders face online, from harassment and arbitrary banning to threats of violence.

We kicked off our lab by getting to know two human rights defenders from Rwanda and Pakistan. Their stories gave us insights into the complicated dynamics of online activism. Technology has been an incredibly powerful tool for them to communicate with others and raise awareness of human rights violations, but it has also exposed them to threats and harassment.

 

Karen van Luttervelt from We Are listens attentively to the stories of our human rights defenders.

 

Online harassment is a worrying trend, as a study conducted in the United States by Pew Research Center (2017) shows. According to Pew, 66% of adult internet users have seen online harassment and 41% have personally experienced it [1]. Among human rights defenders this number may be even higher, as they stand up for the rights of minority groups and victims, resist State and extremists attempts to silence them, and hold existing power structures accountable. Unfortunately, big tech companies have not yet made adequate steps to address and prevent online harassment. An Amnesty International report on online violence against women on Twitter explains: “The company’s failure to meet its responsibilities regarding violence and abuse means that many women are no longer able to express themselves freely on the platform without fear of violence or abuse.” [2]

During the Border Sessions Lab, we used the case of Twitter’s policy on online harassment to demonstrate the power imbalance that human rights defenders’ experiences. We addressed the lived experiences of one of our human rights defenders in detail during a role-play simulation. We divided the group into three smaller groups: human rights defenders, State actors, and Twitter, to discuss how Twitter currently handles online disputes between individuals and the government. This was followed by a discussion about how Twitter could additionally support human rights defenders on their platform. The main question that seemed to form during the discussion was how to translate freedom of expression to an online environment. This showed itself to be a multi-faceted problem. On the one hand Twitter gives human rights defenders a platform to voice their opinions. On the other, the platform enables people to harass and intimidate human rights defenders, as well as spread false information.

The exercise was eye-opening. As we moved further along in the discussion, our participants learned that tech companies frequently use freedom of expression as an excuse not to take action. We also discussed the technological aspects while retaining social understanding of the problem. Another interesting finding was that the human right defenders’ group was overshadowed by the arguments of Twitter and the government. A situation that is also so often the case in real life.

 

Steen Bentall, Head of The Hague Hacks, writes down points discussed during the brainstorming session.

After the simulation we took a short lunch break before we continued with the second part of the day. We split up into two groups to address the question ‘How do we engage tech companies?’. The morning had helped to create a basic understanding of the importance of tech to human rights, and so we built upon this idea during our brainstorming sessions.

We were very happy to see how motivated everyone was to discuss possible solutions. Both of the groups came up with some insightful practical steps and focus points on how to establish and maintain contact with tech companies. The knowledge we acquired from the brainstorm sessions is incredibly valuable. We will incorporate some of the findings into future collaborations with tech companies to ensure support for human rights defenders long-term.

This lab was another example of how important it is for people from different disciplines to come together and talk about tech and human rights. It helped us focus on possible ways of involving tech companies. Our Nextview event also had some great results. We will soon update you on that event too!

If you are interested in The Hague Hacks, or if you would like to learn more, collaborate, volunteer, or just want to drop a note, we’re happy to hear from you. Send us an email at haguehacks@thehaguepeace.org

 

 

References

[1] Online Harassment 2017. (2017). Pew Research Center.

[2] Toxic Twitter – A Toxic Place For Women. (n.d.). Amnesty International.

Events

The Hague Hacks Festival

Welcome to The Hague Hacks Festival 2019

Set Free!

The Hague Hacks strives to bridge the gap between human rights and technology. We facilitate and connect a range of trans-disciplinary actors, to create and/or develop technology that empowers human rights defenders (H.R.D.s) and improves the safety and freedom of victims of human rights violations. The Hague Hacks Festival is our main ideation (idea creation) event of the year. We create a trans-disciplinary space where human rights defenders share their experiences and unpack human rights violations in their communities.

At The Hague Hacks Festival, we bring together tech experts, software developers, designers, engineers, etc., as well as H.R.D.s and diaspora members together. This plurality of perspectives enriches the problem-solving process and leads to innovative new tech ideas for human rights advocacy. We believe that these connections and ideas would never have occurred outside of our Festival Ideation sessions, and that is why our goal is to be that bridge between the worlds of peace and technology.

This year’s theme for the Festival is Set Free: Tech to Empower Human Rights and Freedoms. We will be focusing on four challenges to human rights and freedoms: Political Participation (Nicaragua), Gender Inequality (Bangladesh), Peace Education (Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Turkey/Kurdistan, North Korea), and Right to Expression and Association (Hong Kong).

All of our workshops are facilitated by human rights defenders, tech experts, and community leaders. We highly recommend that you register for workshops in advance. Learn more about The Hague Hacks Festival 2019 by clicking the link.

Watch the excitement of last year’s festival!