As of today, 622 people have been killed this year by police in the United States — 69 in July alone.
Learn more about each of these cases in The Counted project.
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The most disturbing video violence yesterday was not on premium cable but off of a cell phone video, taken in Richland County, South Carolina. In it, a “school safety officer” named Ben Fields puts a barely resisting student into a headlock and then forcibly tries to remove her from her desk. She becomes tangled in the desk, so Fields slams both the student and the desk into the floor. It’s difficult to see what happens next, as the student is obscured by other students. But before she disappears completely from sight, Fields picks up the student by the pant leg and wrist and tosses her, underhand, down the aisle of desks.
That 15-second video isn’t the whole story, but it contains all the information you need. The first tell is that the room is almost completely silent. The other students don’t dare to say a word, and neither does the student. Some of the visible students are hunched over their desks, desperate to not draw the attention of the uniformed bully. The lack of commotion emphasizes how outsize Fields’ use of force is; it’s difficult to understand why such conduct was necessary for a female student that is clearly half his size. She certainly doesn’t look or sound threatening. The teacher, only partially visible, seems completely unaffected by the events, aside from moving out of the way. Which leads to the second tell: This is clearly somewhat normal. It’s being filmed clandestinely, perhaps because someone is finally sick of this, but the strong implication is that this is a room of people who have seen this before. This is not a room that is surprised by what is unfolding two desks down.
Just as it did in Egypt and Ukraine, the stream of updates from Ferguson — both from amateur or non-journalists, eyewitnesses and professional reporters for various outlets — turned into a feed of breaking news unlike anything that non-Twitter users were getting from the major news networks and cable channels. Most of the latter continued with their regular programming, just as media outlets in Turkey and Ukraine avoided mentioning the growing demonstrations in their cities. In a very real sense, citizen-powered journalism filled the gap left by traditional media, which were either incapable or unwilling to cover the news.
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Maria del Rosario Fuentes Rubio operated under the pseudonym “Felina,” or Catwoman to report on local gang violence fueled by drug lords in the Mexican city of Reynosa where she lived. Rubio, a physician by profession and an avid social media journalist for Valor por Tamaulipas, posted emergency telephone numbers and encouraged survivors to speak up. On October 16, she paid the price for her bravery with her life. Rubio was kidnapped and pictures of her murder were tweeted by her assailants.
The founder of Valor por Tamaulipas called her “an angel who gave everything, her life, her future, her safety and peace, she gave it all for the good people of our state.”
We’re in the middle of an epic battle for power in cyberspace. On one side are the traditional, organized, institutional powers such as governments and large multinational corporations. On the other are the distributed and nimble: grassroots movements, dissident groups, hackers, and criminals. Initially, the Internet empowered the second side. It gave them a place to coordinate and communicate efficiently, and made them seem unbeatable. But now, the more traditional institutional powers are winning, and winning big. How these two side fare in the long term, and the fate of the rest of us who don’t fall into either group, is an open question—and one vitally important to the future of the Internet.
In the Internet’s early days, there was a lot of talk about its “natural laws”—how it would upend traditional power blocks, empower the masses, and spread freedom throughout the world. The international nature of the Internet bypassed circumvented national laws. Anonymity was easy. Censorship was impossible. Police were clueless about cybercrime. And bigger changes seemed inevitable. Digital cash would undermine national sovereignty. Citizen journalism would topple traditional media, corporate PR, and political parties. Easy digital copying would destroy the traditional movie and music industries. Web marketing would allow even the smallest companies to compete against corporate giants. It really would be a new world order.
This was a utopian vision, but some of it did come to pass.
Activists around the world use YouTube to document causes they care about and make them known to the world. In the case of human rights, video plays a particularly important role in illuminating what occurs when governments and individuals in power abuse their positions. We’ve seen this play out on a global stage during the Arab Spring, for example: during the height of the activity, 100,000 videos were uploaded from Egypt, a 70% increase on the preceding three months. And we’ve seen it play out in specific, local cases with issues like police brutality, discrimination, elder abuse, gender-based violence, socio-economic justice, access to basic resources, and bullying.
That’s why our non-profit partner WITNESS, a global leader in the use of video for human rights, and Storyful, a social newsgathering operation, are joining forces to launch a new Human Rights channel on YouTube, dedicated to curating hours of raw citizen-video documenting human rights stories that are uploaded daily and distributing that to audiences hungry to learn and take action. The channel, which will also feature content from a slate of human rights organizations already sharing their work on YouTube, aims to shed light on and contextualize under-reported stories, to record otherwise undocumented abuses, and to amplify previously unheard voices. The project was announced today at the Internet at Liberty conference, and will live at youtube.com/humanrights. Storyful will source and verify the videos, and WITNESS will ensure the channel features a balanced breadth of issues with the context viewers need to understand the rights issue involved.
We hope this project can not only be a catalyst to awareness, but offer people new avenues for action and impact. The channel is committed to providing new citizen creators as well as viewers with the tools and information necessary so that every citizen can become a more effective human rights defender. It will also be available on Google+, where the broader human rights community can take part in discussions, share material, and find collaborators.
Police in Washington state are asking the public to stop tweeting during shootings and manhunts to avoid accidentally telling the bad guys what officers are doing.
The “TweetSmart” campaign began in late July by a coalition of nine agencies, including the Washington state patrol and the Seattle police, and aims to raise awareness about social media’s potential impact on law enforcement.
Some have called the effort a step that could lead to censorship; others dismissed it as silly. Police, however, say it’s just a reminder at a time when cell phones and social networks can hasten the lightning-quick spread of information.
A social media expert at the International Association of Chiefs of Police said she’s unaware of similar awareness campaigns elsewhere but the problem that prompted the outreach is growing.
“All members of the public may not understand the implications of tweeting out a picture of SWAT team activity,” said Nancy Korb, who oversees the Alexandria, Virginia, organization’s Center for Social Media.
Korb said she is not aware of any social media post that has led to the injury of a police officer, but she said there have been a few close calls. Other times, tweets have interfered with investigations.
In those cases, police tweet back and ask people to back off.
Using a combination of in-studio anchors and citizens piped in from Skype reporting directly from the ground, Syria al-Shaab manages to broadcast 12 hours of live programming a day from a country that won’t allow foreign reporters in.
“They hacked into our Skype account about a week ago and sent a virus to all the contacts in it. Every time they do something like that, we know we are doing our jobs” said Summer Ajlouni, founder of Syria al-Shaab in a report by Dan Rather of HDNet.
Victor, Josselin, Samuel, Ilan and Ismael are atheist, agnostic, Christian, Jewish and Muslim, in that order. With religious tolerance in mind, the five twenty-something French students, decided to travel across the world from July 2013 to June 2014 for their Interfaith Tour. The goal? To raise awareness of the many interfaith projects already out there making a difference.
We are used to telling ourselves by now that journalism is a manifestation of a human right — that of free expression. Smartphones, cheap recording equipment, and free access to social media and blogging platforms have revolutionised journalism; the means of production have fallen into the hands of the many.
This is a good thing. The more information we have on events, surely the better. But one question does arise: if we are all journalists now, what happens to the privileges journalists used to claim?
Official press identification in the UK states that the holder is recognised by police as a “bona fide newsgatherer”. As statements of status go, it seems a paltry thing. But it does imply that some exception must be made for the bearer. The recognised journalist, it is suggested, should be free to roam a scene unmolested. One can ask questions and reasonably expect an answer. One can wield a video or audio device and not have it confiscated. One can talk to whoever one wants, without fear of recrimination.
That, at least, is the theory. But in Britain, the US and elsewhere, the practice has been changing. Whether during periods of unrest or after, police have shown a disregard for the integrity of journalists’ work. The actions of police in Ferguson have merely been part of a pattern.