The Arab Spring was largely touted as the dawn of a new age of social media driven activism, whereby people would no longer require official channels to communicate and co-ordinate their efforts, with social and mobile platforms giving them a speed and reach that was hitherto unavailable to them. Alas, despite the fanfare that heralded the Arab Spring, the movement kind of petered out, with results far from those expected at the outset.
As with many new ages however, a new and better equipped version may evolve in its stead. Central to this is a new platform created by Advancing Human Rights. The tool, called Movements.org, provides a website whereby dissidents and activists can tap into a network of lawyers, publicists, advocates and journalists to help them on all manner of tasks. For instance, activists can obtain support publicising their endeavours or in seeking asylum in another country.
The project began with seed funding from Google, and aims to be a game changer in areas such as human rights activism.
“It’s like a whole new world,” former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky said. “A dissident can connect himself to practically all the world. In two seconds, a dissident can give all the information he wants to give but also to make connections and to reach to the right advocates in the free world. If we had this tool back in my day, I think the Soviet Union would not have been able to exist as long as it did, because they had to control all of this kind of information.”
Despite the site still being in testing a number of activists have already signed up. David Keyes, executive director of Advancing Human Rights hopes that the site will perform a valuable role in removing the need for a middle man.
“There’s an awful lot of human rights activists and dissidents who are desperate for help and this platform can play a key role in helping connect those most in need with individuals with skills,” he said. “Engaging individuals around the world in standing up for dissidents around the world can be a force multiplier to protect and advance human rights in closed societies.”
Now, it goes without saying that central to the premise of the site is the ability of activists to navigate their way around censors to the site in the first place, which may be no mean feat in itself. Once on the site however it will hopefully provide them with a ready and accessible network of support to help them in their endeavours.