Major Palestine forum tackles challenges and trends of digital activism

Major Palestine forum tackles challenges and trends of digital activism
An international forum held in Ramallah, hosting representatives from the likes of Facebook and Amnesty International, explored the challenges surrounding online activism in Palestine amid an Israeli crackdown.
3 min read
18 January, 2018
Panellists from Google, Facebook and Human Rights Watch attended the West Bank event [7amleh]
How can Palestinians and supporters of the cause embrace digital activism amid the challenges of cyber security, censorship and surveillance?

Solving issues around the rising trend of using social media platforms to advocate for Palestine was the aim of a major international forum held in Ramallah on Wednesday.

Hosted by 7amleh – the Arab Centre for Social Media Advancement – almost 300 people attended the second event of its kind in the West Bank city.

The Forum was a day-long event, comprising panel discussions and Q&A sessions as well as interactive workshops, featuring representatives from the likes of online giants Google and Facebook to Palestinian and human rights NGOs.

The main discussions of the day centred around the protection of digital rights in Palestine and globally, Palestinian innovation in digital activism and global trends in digital activism.

These topics covered a wide range of issues, from Facebook's policy of moderating content in conflict areas and how to build digital rights into human rights mechanisms, as well as the impact of the Palestinian Cybercrime law on Palestinian digital rights.

Speakers from Facebook, Human Rights Watch, Google and Amnesty International gave talks and tips on online freedom of expression.

Facebook's Product Policy Manager, Aibhinn Kelleher, told the audience the social network aims to serve all regions and people as equally as possible and that there is no special treatment or agreements with specific governments.

Responding to the accusation it works with Israel to censor Palestinians' Facebook accounts, she said Facebook works with both sides although acknowledged meetings with Israeli officials had garnered more publicity.

Almost 300 people attended the forum in Ramallah on Wednesday [7amleh]
Nadim Nashif, 7amleh's executive director, said the event's turnout demonstrated "a real appetite in Palestine to engage with issues around digital rights and digital activism".

"The issues and challenges addressed today are not just specific to Palestine, many have global ramifications," he added.

"This makes it more important than ever for us to work together and to explore these issues with the aim of problem solving and sharing best practice so that we can move forward effectively and collaboratively. It has been really heartening to see the passion and drive to do exactly that at the Forum today."

Joshua Franco, Amnesty International's Researcher/Adviser on Technology and Human Rights, added human rights law must continue to effectively protect people while new technologies emerge. 

The interactive workshops covered topics such as crowdfunding, managing campaigns and mobilisation for NGOs, filming evidence on mobile phones and digital security. These were led by representatives from Build Palestine, IMEU, Witness and SumOfUs, among others.

Panellists were also joined by local experts and professionals working in the field from the likes of Birzeit University, al-Haq, Addameer and Build Palestine.

7amleh is a non-profit organisation aimed at enabling Palestinian and Arab civil society to effectively utilise tools of digital advocacy through professional capacity building, defending digital rights and building influential digital media campaigns.