Meedan is leading this project that aims to mobilize the Latin American activist community around the risks related to corporate social media platforms becoming responsible for preserving the history and memory of activist movements, while there is still a total lack of transparency regarding its content moderation policies and private interests.
The objective of every archive should be to share the memory of movements, to create belonging and ties with communities and to save collective history. But, how to ensure that there is a story to tell and study in the future when these records are on private platforms? The idea here is to ensure that memories of resistance are preserved.
Erasing Latin American resistance history, now in the digital context
The history of Latin America is marked by the erasure of resistance. First with the genocides of indigenous people that occurred across the continent and that decimated civilizations that tried to resist European invaders over the centuries and later through military dictatorships, corrupt governaments, and racist eugenic policies.
This process extends to the present day, in 2019 Latin America was considered the most dangerous region in the world for human rights activists, according to Amnesty International, with 210 people killed. This count includes LGBTQI +, women’s rights and anti-corruption advocates. It is the region that has killed most journalists this past year, twenty-two members of the press have been murdered. 2020 marks a period in which the region has become the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, with worsening economic instability and conservative governments that flirt with militarism in the region.
The pandemic caused this activism that took the streets with the Feminist Spring to turn to social networks and technologies, as is the case of indigenous leaders who organize themselves in WhatsApp groups and use social media channels to hold events live from inside their homes. It is essential given this scenario to understand that social media platforms have a central role as disseminators of this content and as a digital agora. However, they are corporate companies and not elected governments and representative of democratic values responsible for guarding and ensuring that these memories and narratives are preserved and have space to be communicated.
Activism content on social media remains at risk of exclusion, hacking or censorship this has happened before, when YouTube’s new algorithmic policies, launched in 2017, led to the disappearance overnight of the documentation of human rights abuses in Syria . According to the 2019 report by the EFF (Eletronic Frontier Foundation), "Stuck in the network: the impact of ‘extremist’ speech regulations on human rights content", in which YouTube used automatic signage with machine learning to withdraw thousands of Syrian YouTube channels that were publishing videos documenting human rights violations.
There is a constant tension between social media platforms with their non-transparent content moderation policies and the presence of content from communities considered diverse. We see content primarily related to freedom of expression and diversity being removed from these spaces, as identified by research conducted by Salty (an American newsletter) with his readers on the bias of algorithms, policing content by social media platforms when focused on race, queer and gender content. This research is one example that shows how marginalized communities are disproportionately affected by Instagram’s content policies.
This project is being initiated based on the absence of data for research regarding the content of Latin American activists being removed from social media platforms. There are initiatives by institutions and civil organizations in the region that are articulating conversations and recommendations on the lack of transparency regarding the applied policies and the use of content moderation algorithms.
Collaborating and dialoguing with the community
We had the opportunity to discuss this issue and project with the Internet Freedom Festival Glitter Meetup community, and at the international human rights event RightsCon 2020 - Recordkeepers of the Resistance.
The project phases
1. Validation of the hypothesis
Research with activist communities through a questionnaire and data collection to validate the hypothesis: "Activists are having their content removed from social networking platforms in Latin America".
2. Network working group
Create a working group with representatives of civil human rights organizations to analyze the data and organize the information;
3. Content creation activities with and for the activist community
Create a listening process with the communities, map the needs and gather case studies, collaborate in contextualized toolkits and workshops for the preservation of activist digital content;
4. Consortium and code of ethics
Create a code of ethics for archiving social media content and mediation with social media platforms.
Want to collaborate with us?Respond and share this survey with Latin American activists
Objective of this study
The purpose of this study is to collect and analyze information about activists who use social networks in Latin America to carry out their activism and preserve their history and memory. The survey will take approximately 8 minutes to complete. The results of this study will improve our understanding of activists and their practices to preserve the memory of their resistance movements in Latin America and how they are affected by content moderation policies on social media platforms.
Study Methodology and Survey
You will receive a series of 15 questions and complete an anonymous online survey. The questions are about your experiences using social media and how they affected your activism and / or the organization of memory in your community, your movement and activism practice. Answer the questions in the best possible way and feel free to ignore all the questions that you are not comfortable answering.
Questions about gender identity, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity
It is necessary to understand whether the policies implemented by the platforms affect differently the people who express their identity and resistance practices in these channels. All answers are optional, but it is necessary to emphasize the importance of these markers in the analysis.
Privacy and Trust
We understand that the information you will share might be of a sensitive and private nature, that is why this is an anonymous survey, all data is anonymous and will be analysed as such. If you have security concerns when filling out this survey we encorage you to open the survey link in an anonymous tab on your browser as well as the use of a VPN service.
Risks / Benefits
Please, ignore any questions you want or end the survey at any time. It’s possible that through contributing to this research you may have the opportunity to reflect on your experiences with using social media in recent months and the need for independent content preservation practices.
The materials and reports created from this survey will be shared with the community. If you know an organization that is doing similar work, share it and let’s connect!