eQualit.ie at work on Deflect Labs: Online attack forensics for civil society empowerment

eQualit.ie has had a busy year, with continuing development of Deflect, their flagship distributed denial of service (DDoS) mitigation service, available free as always and now including multi-language localisation for greater global accessibility. Check out their new and improved website, which nicely simplifies the sign-up process.

Building on this, eQualit.ie has been actively at work on Deflect Labs, a powerful system of classification and analytics that identifies online attack patterns and timing, thereby increasing their cost and reducing the impunity of those who seek to silence voices online. CSOs, media and human rights organisations the world over are frequently targeted, stifling free expression, intimidating and systematically preventing information from being shared. Through Deflect Labs attack forensics and threat intelligence reports, eQualit.ie aims to make aggression against civil society websites more expensive and less effective, and to peel away attackers’ impunity by enabling attribution.

In parallel, they are building outreach and security training initiatives by working with partners in Ukraine and Colombia on establishing digital security schools, offering support and education to local journalists, activists and researchers.

Deflect Labs will provide real-time and historical analytic tools, plus insight into DDoS attacks and botnets’ characteristics.

Image source: eQualit.ie.

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Building networks and relationships to strengthen the digital rights movement in Southeast Asia

In October 2017, 105 journalists, artists, technologists, researchers and film-makers gathered in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, for COCONET: a Southeast Asia Digital Rights Camp. It was organised by EngageMedia, in collaboration with APC, the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) and a regional consortium. COCONET, named after the coconut plant that is widely grown and used in the Southeast Asian region, also means “Connecting Communities and Networks”. Participants converged from across Asia and beyond to share their knowledge, skills, tools, experiences and ideas about digital rights in a series of open-space workshops, labs and evening activities.

“The workshop is great! It has an abundance of expertise and experience from all around the region and the people have such high energy. So much information within them. I’ve learned so much.” – Ilang-Ilang Quijano of Altermidya

Inspired by the discussions and newly set up relationships at COCONET, participants created a thriving network for sharing opportunities and knowledge. These collaborations and the sense of community are needed now more than ever. Civil society actors find themselves in an online environment increasingly full of risks, and despite substantial efforts, these issues remain little known or appreciated amongst the general public. EngageMedia believes that the networks and relationships established at COCONET are essential to strengthening the digital rights movement, especially in Southeast Asia.

Image source: EngageMedia.

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Latin America in a Glimpse 2017: Gender, feminism and the internet in Latin America

The internet exists thanks to the work of many women who have been rendered invisible, shut out from spaces of power and also subjected to violence. Different organisations around the world have attempted to respond to, fight back against and change this reality. Derechos Digitales has learned a lot from them, and just over a year ago, they began to develop a strategy to join the cause. They want to construct an internet that is safe and inclusive at every level; they want to make another internet.

From the Latin American feminist movement, Derechos Digitales has learned that together we are stronger: we can help each other, support each other, teach each other and respond. As an organisation that defends human rights and the public interest, their work consists of promoting and strengthening a community of women and feminists working at the different levels of the digital ecosystem in Latin America. How? By getting to know them, promoting their work, mapping their efforts and fostering contact between them.

Feminist servers with policies that zealously protect our privacy; women teaching and learning programming languages; geolocalising open data; developing apps to disseminate information and assist victims of domestic, social or institutional violence. Organisations that develop methodologies to raise awareness and promote adoption of safe internet use practices; journalists, editors and storytellers working to share our stories. All of us together are building this internet we dream of, and many of them are in the 2017 report, Latin America in a Glimpse: Gender, feminism and the internet, produced with the support of an APC subgrant.

Image source: Derechos Digitales.

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Colnodo strengthens digital skills and security in Colombia

In 2017 Colnodo continued its efforts in building digital security skills through training aimed at journalists, activists, ICT centre facilitators and women. Hands-on workshops were organised and teaching materials were developed to promote safe online practices and raise awareness of the resources and tools available to mitigate digital risks. These experiences served as the foundations for the implementation of the Digital Security School in Colombia, in partnership with Canadian APC member organisation eQualit.ie, and the development of a digital security kit based on a kit designed by Derechos Digitales, another APC member.

Colnodo has developed innovative content to build knowledge among various sectors of the population, including women, entrepreneurs and librarians, among others, through online courses and mobile apps for Android and iOS. An app developed in partnership with the Norwegian Refugee Council, “Protection Tips at Your Fingertips”, is aimed at mitigating the vulnerability of social movement leaders in Colombia. In addition, as a way to facilitate access to knowledge for the unconnected or barely connected sectors of the population, Colnodo has developed versions of this online content that are accessible offline.

Meanwhile, 2,000 women entrepreneurs from 18 cities and municipalities across the country, including Bogotá and Medellín, were trained through the “Ella Aprende, Ella Emprende” programme, an initiative supported by Facebook which seeks to enhance the online presence and digital marketing skills of small enterprises headed by women.

Image source: Colnodo.

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CITAD urges governments to equip female schools with ICT facilities and internet access in Nigeria

As the entry examination for tertiary education institutions becomes fully computer-based in Nigeria, most girls’ secondary schools in Kano state still do not have computer laboratories or internet access. Research conducted by the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) on a sample of girls’ secondary schools in the state established that the students lacked information and communications technology (ICT) skills, even though they have to write a computer-based examination to gain entry into universities. Nigeria has a National ICT Policy which includes an education component, but implementation of the policy remains a challenge across the country.

Of the students sampled for the research study, 84.6% admitted they do not know how to operate a computer; a further 10.8% are computer literate but had acquired their computer literacy at home, as their schools lacked such facilities; and 4.7% said they have internet access in their schools, but there is a lack of maintenance, teachers, power, etc. The study also found that awareness of ICT at the parental and societal level is low.

Having raised a number of concerns, the study made a series of recommendations, which included urging governments to equip female schools with ICT facilities and internet access, as well as to recruit enough qualified teachers. It also stressed the need for parents to encourage and support their female children in computer and internet usage, while creating awareness around measures for protecting themselves against cyberbullying. The findings of the research were gathered in a publication, Promoting greater access to internet for female students of secondary schools, which was produced with the support of an APC subgrant.

Image source: CITAD. Conducting a focus group discussion with students for the research.

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Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa: A growing footprint

In September 2017, the annual Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica) was hosted in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was a partnership between APC and the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) which saw the physical footprint of FIFAfrica grow: since the first edition in 2014, the Forum had always been hosted in Uganda.

The landmark event convenes various stakeholders from the internet governance and online rights arenas in Africa and beyond to deliberate on gaps, concerns and opportunities for advancing privacy, access to information, free expression, non-discrimination and the free flow of information online. Sessions at the Forum were built around the 13 principles of the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms.

In the lead-up to FIFAfrica, CIPESA activities included a series of convenings and ICT policy advocacy workshops which were hosted in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia. Following continued affronts to digital rights in Africa, FIFAfrica provided a platform to delve deeper into the various challenges and opportunities that exist – and lie ahead. The State of Internet Freedom in Africa 2017 report was launched alongside the new Framework for Calculating the Economic Impact of Internet Disruptions in Sub-Saharan Africa. Insights from the Forum were shared at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which took place in December in Switzerland.

Image source: The REACT policy framework to close the digital gender divide as captured by Neema Iyer, a beneficiary of travel support to attend FIFAfrica 2017.

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Women shaping journalistic practice in Bulgaria

In October 2017, BlueLink held a roundtable with practising journalists, university journalism professors, media representatives and gender experts in Bulgaria, focused on women shaping journalistic practice in Bulgaria. It probed into the image of a woman journalist, the role of women in the professional journalism environment, problems and advantages of women in journalism, including violence, aggression and attacks against female journalists, the reporting of women’s problems in the media, and what could be done about all of these. The professional discussion was part of the project “Journalism by Women for Women” implemented by the BlueLink Foundation with the financial support of the Bulgarian Fund for Women.

The results of the roundtable were summarised in the publication “Victims and culprits: Women shaping journalistic practice in Bulgaria”. It identifies various professional challenges faced by women in the Bulgarian media. Female journalists often cover topics considered less prestigious, and face disparagement and gender-based online abuse. Even though they outnumber men in editorial newsrooms, female journalists do not seem to dominate media content, as women’s rights and issues are not highly covered. Change in public attitudes is seen as crucially needed to improve professional environments and media coverage in favour of women.

Image source: Victims and culprits: Women shaping journalistic practice in Bulgaria. Design: Betina Gankova/BlueLink.

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7amleh Center advances its work in freedom of expression and digital rights through research and Palestine Digital Activism Forum

7amleh Center has been laying the foundations for awareness and advocacy on digital rights in Palestine through the publication of groundbreaking research on “Internet Freedoms in Palestine – Mapping of Digital Rights Violations and Threats”, and bringing key policy-makers from social media giants Facebook and Google to engage with Palestinian civil society in the first-ever Palestine Digital Activism Forum (PDAF) in Ramallah. 7amleh’s research analyses threats to and violations of Palestinian digital rights by governmental actors – the Israeli authorities, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip – as well as social media companies.

This innovative research is 7amleh’s foundation for its awareness and advocacy campaigns, as well as lobbying work with non-governmental actors. Representatives from Google and Facebook at the second PDAF in Ramallah interacted with Palestinian civil society on their policies regarding Palestine.

Image source: 7amleh Center.

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ALIN promotes access to information in remote areas of Kenya

Arid Lands Information Network’s (ALIN) innovative approach to information and communications technologies (ICTs) and knowledge management received a boost in 2017 when it deployed a Community Education, Business and Information Centre (CEBIC) in Samburu County, Kenya. The Low Emission and Climate Resilient Development (LECRD) Project under which this centre falls is a joint initiative implemented by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and is funded by USAID and UK Aid.

The centre will promote access to information as well create business opportunities for vulnerable communities. In addition, the Samburu County government, which is also a partner, will use the centre for its development activities. The centre will enhance access to timely and up-to-date information like market data, which is a critical element for spurring economic development.

Communities in the area lack the means to access and share transformative knowledge. Most of them do not have adequate skills and competencies to access needed knowledge and there is a lack of knowledge exchange nodes in the area.

The centre will be launched by the third quarter of 2018 and will offer renewable energy demonstrations and services, a community library, climate information, ICT services, building technology demonstrations, and conference and edutainment facilities.

The CEBIC will facilitate learning and skills transfer among communities. They will be able to embrace a culture of knowledge sharing that will enable them to make informed decisions on their livelihoods.

Image source: ALIN.

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Protecting the Paraguayan Guasu Metropolitan park with the help of social media

In January 2017, the Paraguayan Ministry of Public Works began to dig two large trenches, four metres deep, in Guasu Metropolitan Park, the last natural forested area in Asunción, claiming that these would serve to collect run-off from the stream that runs along the border of the park, in order to prevent flooding. In fact, what they were creating was a massive sewage reservoir.

Asociación Trinidad, along with a small group of civil society representatives, lawyers, journalists, environmentalists and engineers, began to research ways to stop the work. Using the Law on Access to Public Information, they discovered that the operation had not received municipal authorisation, and that the environmental permits had been improperly requested.

What began as the initiative of a small group of people who filed a complaint with the municipality to halt the work then moved to social media platforms, where protests and demonstrations were organised. A pivotal moment came when Asociación Trinidad director Arturo Bregaglio physically placed himself in the path of the bulldozers to keep them from entering the park, after the complaint filed had succeeded in obtaining a stop-work order. This act of defiance went viral, spurring the massive support needed for the cause. As a result, the deforestation of the park was suspended for over a year, while efforts are underway to have it declared a Protected Natural Area by the National Congress.

Image source: Asociación Trinidad.

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