Technology has democratized news publishing, and it has rattled regimes that equate survival with control of all aspects of society, especially the flow of information
Blogger Rami Nakhle leaned across the table toward a cluster of U.S. technology leaders. “People are tortured to death because their Facebook account is hacked. You can make a difference between life and death,” he told the Silicon Valley executives and computer engineers representing Facebook, Google, and other companies.
Nakhle explained how he and his friends had been using the companies’ software to smuggle video footage and news out of Syria to reporters across the world. Then he described the security bugs that enabled the authorities to track and torture them.
This was one of many dramatic moments during a September conference CPJ convened in San Francisco to connect the technology community with the journalists who risk their lives to report from some of the most restricted countries in the world. These journalists find themselves empowered by the digital explosion at the same time they are endangered by technological changes, both designed and unintended, that expose them to repressive forces.
“They are brave enough,” Nakhle said of the journalists. “They know why they are taking these risks. With a small investment in their security, you can save many lives,” he told the group.
Technology has democratized news publishing, and it has rattled regimes that equate survival with control of all aspects of society, especially the flow of information. Video footage of repression from Burma to Syria to Egypt dramatically illustrates the benefits of Internet platforms and social media. Only a few years ago, much of this footage could not have been recorded easily and would never have been allowed out of a restricted country. Yet the Arab uprisings of 2011 also demonstrate the urgent need for providers and users of digital tools to fully understand the dangers of deploying them in repressive nations.