After reading the headline of this post, you may wonder what info-activism has to do in the tech section of the Huffington Post? Or more generally what is info-activism in the first place?
An info-activist is someone who believes information should be accessible to the public, to allow the people to make informed decisions as citizens. Now, as the verdict of the Bradley Manning trial recently came out and as revelations about the extent of the surveillance by the NSA have emerged for the past few weeks, thanks to a certain Edward Snowden, you will easily recognize who are the forefront figures of info-activism.
But let's try not to think of info-activism as a "thing" in itself, belonging to some elite whistle-blowers, but rather as a campaigning tactic. Different kinds of activism call for different kinds of strategies. Our motivations for stepping back from our routine to act upon the world we live in vary. For some, it is the disappointment with how things are that triggers a desire for change. For others activism comes as an act of solidarity for a fight already started.
Yet, it all comes down to the question "why?" Why are things the way they are? Why do the same schemes keep recurring? Info-activism is about addressing this why.
When institutions, states and private companies use the lack of transparency as a defence to conceal wrongdoings, investigating becomes the necessary response, the needed step to expose the truth and thus engage people in a meaningful reflection.
This is where techies and geeks enter the stage and this is why you should care about it. Because in an era of unprecedented access to information, investigating is no longer restricted to the spheres of a few journalists working for major publications.
The NGO Tactical Tech has started working on a series of documentaries, Exposing the Invisible, exploring these new forms of investigations (disclaimer: I work as a production coordinator on this project...). We are meeting activists, artists, and of course hackers collaborating to expose what they care about.
The first episode, Our Currency is Information, deals with Paul Radu and his team. The investigative reporter, who has cofounded the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, relies on a network of reporters and hackers, across the world to provide in depth investigations to the public on organised crime in the Balkans.
Radu talks about the importance of hackers on his work. Some have, for instance, helped him scrap a database that led to groundbreaking exposure of corruption in Azerbaijan.
We, at Tactical Tech, made this work hoping you will relate to it, hoping that you will feel the need to fuel the causes you want to fight for with in depth investigations. Have some tech skills? Use them! Look for activists who need your help, join their networks.
Exposing the Invisible is not just a series of films. It is also a website that gathers resources activists can use to pursue their own investigations. A wide range of tools is covered from gathering data, data visualisation as well as information security and privacy. Because activism is also about helping others to stay safe online.
The resources are frequently updated and we hope you will discover some tools you will find useful. But we also want to hear about what you use and what you think can help activists in their work. We have a talk to us page and we look forward to hearing from you.
Now, this talk to us page is also there because we want to hear your stories. Working on an investigation? Come and tell us!