Mobilising and coordinating rapid responses to digital harms

Since 2019, Digital Action has helped multiple activists and organizations come together to respond to digital harms in real time. Using our networks, understanding of political landscapes and campaigning, we’ve achieved swift results for refugees, faith leaders, advertisers, policymakers and even Big Tech.

Twitter post

Working with Twitter to ban Prisoner of War videos from their platform

As the war in Ukraine escalated in March 2022, it became clear that Prisoner of War videos were being shared on platforms like Twitter, something the Geneva Convention prohibits. In consultation with Human Rights Watch, Digital Action worked quietly with our contacts at Twitter to get them to act.

In April the Head of Trust and Safety at Twitter, Yoel Roth, tweeted that they were taking action on POW videos, with the rules applying to all conflicts. Twitter also announced they would not amplify or recommend government accounts of states that limit access to free information and are engaged in armed interstate conflict, beginning with Russian government accounts.

This was the first time that the Geneva Convention was mentioned in Twitter’s public communications, and opened a door to further integration of human rights frameworks into how Twitter and other social media platforms work. One of our contacts confirmed “that was largely due to Digital Action!”

Twitter’s statement was updated in May 2022, sharing the impacts of their approach to Russian government accounts:
Engagements per Tweet decreased by approximately 25%; The number of accounts that engaged with those Tweets decreased by 49%.

“We are guided by international humanitarian law, specifically Article 13 of Geneva Convention III (on protecting prisoners of war (PoWs) from any physical or psychological abuse or threat thereof, and encompasses a prohibition on humiliating them) and do not want Twitter to be used by state actors to infringe this law. ”

Twitter’s company statement

How we worked with Victims Advocates International to support Rohingya refugees

We helped Victim Advocates International support 16 young people from the Rohingya community, a Muslim minority in Myanmar, to bring a case against Facebook for the part the platform played in the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. We ensured that their legal tactics were complemented by more public facing campaigning and mobilisation. Many have been in refugee camps since August 2017 when more than 730,000 Rohingya fled its Rakhine state after a military “clearance operation”. Facebook commissioned an independent report in 2018, which found they hadn’t done enough to prevent the incitement of violence and hate speech against the Rohingya.

VAI approached Digital Action for support, and we brought the young people together with Avaaz, Global Witness and others to secure media coverage and build social media awareness for their efforts, particularly in Ireland where the court case took place. As well as the case in Ireland, a class action has also been lodged in the US.

“The representatives are really pleased that their efforts are having so much of an impact in potentially directing regulation to ensure that this does not happen again.”

Victim Advocates International

How we helped faith leaders tackle online hate speech

Triggered by inflammatory tweets posted by grime music artist Wiley which led to real world harm,, in 2020, we helped nine faith leaders call on the UK Government to accelerate the Online Harms legislation to tackle online hate speech. Digital Action helped them find consensus, write an open letter and secure media coverage.

Who was involved:

  • Very Rev Dr Susan Brown, Convener, Faith Impact Forum, The Church of Scotland
  • Akeela Ahmed MBE, Chair of the Independent Members, the Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group
  • Qari Muhammad Asim MBE, Chair, Mosques Imams National Advisory Board. Senior Imam, Makkah Mosque
  • Iman Atta, Director Tell MAMA and Faith Matters
  • Mark Gardner, Incoming Chief Executive, Community Security Trust
  • Rajnish Kashyap, General Secretary, Hindu Council UK
  • Laura Marks OBE, Co-Founder, Nisa-Nashim
  • Paul Parker,Recording Clerk, Quakers in Britain
  • Sally Patterson, Executive Committee, Alliance of Jewish Women and their Organisations

“As faith leaders and heads of faith-based organisations we stand in solidarity with all those who have faced abuse and hatred on social media. [...] The prevalence of racist, antisemitic, Islamophobic and Anti-Hindu hate underlines how the social media companies continue to fall short. We cannot continue to rely on their piecemeal approach to online abuse.”

Instigating manifestos for the Conscious Advertising Networks

The Conscious Advertising Network (CAN) was formed in 2019 to break the economic link between advertising and harmful content. We worked with Mozilla to support this coalition of 30 companies in the advertising sector, to create a manifesto about informed consent.

CAN has since grown to an international network of over 180 advertisers and agencies who aim to implement the Informed Consent manifesto, as well as CAN’s other six manifestos.

“In anticipation of an industry-wide mindset shift where people take more control of their own online experience, Informed Consent will allow individuals to make a single decision about how their data is used. Facilitating this will not only pre-empt any potential consequences of ePrivacy legislation, but it will also allow us to demonstrate respect for people by engaging with them and promoting Informed Consent in the ‘value exchange’. In turn, we can truly effect a change to prevent people losing trust in brands, through providing high quality online experiences with robust data protection.”

Merkle | Periscopix, CAN member

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