Almost 300 hundred people attended the second Palestine Digital Activism Forum in Ramallah, this week, on 17 January, 2018. The event was was hosted by 7amleh – the Arab Center for Social Media Advancement.

The Forum was a day-long event, comprising panel discussions and Q&A sessions as well as interactive workshops. The event aimed to address and explore challenges and trends in digital activism, both in Palestine and globally, and to provide an opportunity for problem-solving and sharing best practice. It was attended by people from all walks of life – students, activists, staff from leading non-governmental organizations, local businesses and internationals.

According to the PNN, the main discussions of the day centered around the protection of digital rights in Palestine and globally; Palestinian innovation in digital activism in Palestine; 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 to the impact of the Palestinian Cybercrime law on Palestinian digital rights.

Key points to emerge from these discussions included:

  • All authorities on the ground in Palestine are falling short of standards on freedom of expression and digital rights (Omar Shakir, Human Rights Watch)
  • Human rights mechanisms, such as the UN Human Rights Council, should be used to ensure that digital rights become a more prominent part of work on human rights (Anriette Esterhuysen, Association for Progressive Communications (APC)​)
  • It is vital to provide context when posting on social media in order to avoid content moderation (Thawab Shibly, Google)
  • Clarity about what rules govern online expression is essential for both states and corporate actors to ensure that restrictions on human rights meet the requirement of legality (Joshua Franco, Amnesty International)

Facebook’s Product Policy Manager, Aibhinn Kelleher, told the audience that Facebook 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 that Facebook works with Israel to censor Palestinians’ Facebook accounts, she stated that Facebook works with both sides although she acknowledged that meetings with Israeli officials had garnered more publicity.

Nadim Nashif, 7amleh’s Executive Director, said: “7amleh’s second Palestine Digital Activism Forum attracted hundreds of participants demonstrating that there is 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. 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/Advisor on Technology and Human Rights, said: “Today was a great chance to learn from activists from Palestine and around the world about the challenges and opportunities of new technology and human rights. As new technologies become more central in all of our lives, it’s important that international human rights law effectively protects people.”

The interactive workshops covered topics such as crowdfunding; managing campaigns and mobilisation and social media 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 at the Forum included representatives from leading global organisations including Amnesty International, Levant Wikimedia User Group, Human Rights Watch and the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) as well as social media giants Facebook and Google. They were joined by local experts and professionals working in this field from the likes of Birzeit University, Al-Haq, Addameer and Build Palestine.

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

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