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Surveillance Should be Necessary and Proportionate, Say Rights Monitors

Over 100 human rights and freedom of expression monitors worldwide, have signed the ‘International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance,’ which brings together principles governing the relationship between human rights – especially the right to information – and surveillance laws in the age of digital communications.
The document, developed by Access, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Privacy International, “attempts to explain how international human rights law applies in the current digital environment, particularly in light of the increase in and changes to communications surveillance technologies and techniques,” says the Preamble.

Tweet Your Way to Human Rights Activism (Even if You\’re a Twitter Novice)

Ever since it made its mark on the social activism stage with a starring role in the Moldova “Twitter Revolution” and the post-election riots in Iran, Twitter has secured its place as a valuable tool in organizing, information sharing, and activism.

And this handy form of social media isn’t just useful when you find yourself in the middle of a revolution, there are plenty of ways to use Twitter to get involved in a cause from the comfort of you couch. Yes, mobilization can happen even while wearing a Snuggie.

The first step to getting involved in 140 characters or less is to follow the right people, namely those interested in a similar cause. This extensive list of the top human rights activists is a great place to start. At you can browse the top tweeters in categories like “Activist” and even sort them by the city. You can also follow us and see who we’re following at

Next, set a personal goal to tweet about a human rights issue or a link to a story at least once a week (as’s Amanda Kloer suggests). Share a fun fact or a recent news story, re-tweet someone’s cause, or encourage others to join in. Whether it be spreading the word about free speech violations, jailed journalists, or the good work of others, persuade your followers to do what they can to help.

Artist and Poet Laureate Larry Jaffe tweeted the Declaration of Human Rights 140 characters at a time on his twitter account. Jaffe is the first to admit he is no Twitter expert, but one tip he has is to use the platform to connect with people. “Despite the appearance that Twitter is a ‘broadcast’ medium, it really is full of rich emotional interaction,” Jaffe says. “Change happens one person at a time even if you are engaging in a dialog of thousands, you still have to connect.”

And the ultimate form of connecting is collaborating with your fellow Twitterers. Collaboration is really the key to putting the social in your social media activism. Use hashtags to organize tweets about a certain topic or event and join groups so others can find your account. Once you have organized a network with your Twitter peers, it’s up to you to decide where and how far you want to take it.

Christian Kreutz at CrissCrossed points out that although social media sites can easily remain a place mainly for leisure, they also have the potential to harness the power of mass collaboration. And for an idea of what that could look like, think to the campaign against FARC in Columbia that lead to mass rallies, or the campaign in Estonia that lead to a 50,000 person turnout to clean up the entire country in a day.

Inspired yet? Click here to start tweeting.

Credit: Flickr, respres

How China Exports its Human Rights Policies

It was reported last week that China now has more billionaires than any other country after the United States. China’s budding capital and ability to bounce back from recession is giving it added influence, especially with the new countries they are beginning to do business with.

China has flexed its censorship muscle with American companies like Yahoo and Google, which agreed to filter web pages that appear in a search per China’s demands. A search for Tiananmen Square in China, for example, will return information on the largest urban plaza in the world, with no hint to the bloody riots that occurred there 20 years ago.

And during last week’s Frankfurt Book Fair–the largest industry gathering of the year where China was the guest of honor–Chinese officials staged a walkout to protest the attendance of dissident authors Dai Qing and Bei Ling. The book fair’s organizers quickly caved to the Chinese and revoked the exiled authors’ invitations.

Powerful companies and countries have a history of bowing to China’s demands, but as China looks to countries with similarly dismal history of human rights such as Sri Lanka, the monetary protection China provides has only encouraged their bad actions. China provided almost $1 billion in aid to Sri Lanka last year, while U.S. aid amounted to just $7.4 million. This backing by China has not only provided weapons to help end the ceasefire, it has also allowed Sri Lanka to ignore outside pressure from other countries to clean up their human rights acts. China has their back and that is all they need.

As China becomes a leader in the global market and is better able to assert its monetary influence in other countries, it is a heavy reminder that their poor human rights policies–which directly affects journalists attempting to report the news–don’t just stop at their borders. They are being monetarily encouraged in every country China does business with.

Even here in the U.S. we have been guilty of overlooking certain actions and putting hard talks on the back burner. On her last visit to China, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that she intends to press the country’s leaders of human rights policies, but that that will have to come second. Clinton was quoted in The Daily Telegraph as saying, “Our pressing on those issues can’t interfere on the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis.”

Photo Credit: Flickr, World Economic Forum