MedMedia is a cross-Mediterranean program, implemented by multiple stakeholders and designed to “complement ongoing campaigns to promote media freedoms and overcome the barriers to sectorial change.” As part of the initiative, a database of media development projects across the region has been created to help minimize overlap of efforts, among other aims. The Arab Digital Rights Datasets are included in this mapping and will be featured on the Med-MEDIA website in an upcoming blogpost.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has published the “Crime of Speech: How Arab Governments Use the Law to Silence Expression Online,” a new report by Wafa ben Hassine that looks at legal frameworks for online expression in the MENA region generally, and examines which kinds of laws are being used in four Arab-region countries to crackdown on online expression in particular. Ben Hassine completed the report during a six-month period as an Information Controls Fellow through the Open Technology Fund.
Among Ben Hassine’s key findings are
that law enforcement only applies them after it’s identified the journalist or protestor that it wants to arrest. The pattern is that authorities will find the offending speech and then choose the law that can be interpreted to most closely address it. The system results in a rule by law rather than rule of law: the goal is to arrest, try, and punish the individual—the law is merely a tool used to reach an already predetermined conviction.
The report relies heavily on the Arab Digital Rights Datasets and cross-references that data with “specific cases of arrest, detention, and imprisonment due to online activity, and where law enforcement targeted the individual under the guise of going after cybercrime or countering terrorism online.”
Like the legislative data, Ben Hassine’s data of arrests and detention is also openly accessible in CSV format.
Update August 10, 2016: Silk was purchased by Palantir and is no longer being maintained. We will be updating the dataset and porting over the data to a new online outpost in mid to late 2017.
In this webinar, I spoke with Jurian Bass and Sarah Aoun, from Silk.co, a platform where people can easily upload and visualize their datasets. I talk about how SMEX created the open Arab Digital Rights Dataset and then used Silk.co as a publishing platform to create smex.silk.co, a multimedia research portal that “illuminates trends in how Arab governments are limiting digital rights, such as free expression and privacy online.”
Earlier this month, the Annenberg School for Communication’s Internet Policy Observatory teamed up with Citizen Lab, ASL19, Social Media Exchange, 7iber, and Kadir Has University’s New Media Department to host an Internet Policy Research Methods Workshop focused on policy development in the MENA region. The program brought together young scholars and activists working in digital rights and the internet policy space in an intensive four-day practicum that provided a survey of both qualitative and quantitative, online and offline research methods with the goal of enhancing and advancing their advocacy efforts.
[pdf-embedder url=”https://news.cyrilla.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/SMEX_Prez_IPO_Workshop.pdf” title=”Advancing Policy Advocacy for Digital Rights in the MENA Region”]
SMEX had the privilege of framing the workshop by outlining the current state of digital rights in the MENA region in our session “Advancing Policy Advocacy for Digital Rights in the MENA Region (embedded above).” Through recent research and the Arab Digital Rights Datasets, which we had recently visualized using the Silk.coo platform, we focused on emerging legal and social trends and how civil society and citizens-at-large are responding to them.
We also highlighted several recent advocacy initiatives, their successes and failures, and explored how the availability—or lack thereof—of Internet policy data enhances (or prevents) advocacy efforts to protect free expression and privacy online.
In advance of the workshop, we shared the following briefing materials with participants:
- Getting a Grasp on Laws Governing Online Speech in MENA Countries and SMEX blogpost series on the context of the emerging legal framework
- Local Internet Policies in the Arab Region
- Infographics from 7iber.com on the Road to Internet Censorship in Jordan and Legislative Limits on Freedom of Expression in Jordan
- Digital Citizen/Muwaten Raqamy Newsletter
- Columbia’s Global Free Expression Case Law Library (filtered for Middle East and North Africa and Digital Communications/Electronic Publishing)
With a greatly expanded dataset—including laws from 20 countries, nearly twice as many countries as the original dataset that covered six countries and Iran—SMEX participated in the inaugural Data4Chan.ge workshop hosted by Small Media in London, last month.
The two-day workshop covered principles of data visualization and then gave teams comprising civil society organizations with datasets, designers, and coders a chance to play with their data and how to make it relevant to change processes.
This was the first time SMEX was able to see the ADRD in action. Our design and coding sprint culminated in the following presentation for a prototype (above). Clicking through the presentation will give you an idea of the kinds of questions we wanted to ask of the data, including:
- Whether laws were passed more quickly in the wake of the Arab spring;
- Ideas for how to cross-reference the legislation with other types of data, such as individual cases of detention and prosecution for alleged online speech crimes; and
- An already well-established sense that since this is largely a user-generated dataset, that more work would need to be done on the methodology to make it a reliable source for research, reporting, and legal proceedings.
This paper surveys the emerging legal framework for online expression in the Arab region and is the foundation for a series of blogposts on the topic on the SMEX website. The research conducted for it, along with the initial data collection, originally spurred the idea of the datasets.