At a time when racism is on the rise in Europe, reportedly reaching its worst level since the 1980s, it is more more important than ever to stand up against scapegoating of migrants and minorities. Two initiatives highlight our commitment to tolerance.
In Germany, we kicked off a new edition this month of the YouTube 361 Grad Respekt combating social exclusion and (cyber-)bullying. This YouTube youth competition runs five video camps across the country, helping students script and shoot videos. You can also participate from home using a webcam or make a video with your smartphone or tablet. Tell us all what makes you strong, talk about your experiences, give others courage, and inspire and motivate them to submit their own statement about showing more respect. Share the video and upload here.
Submissions from the five video camps will be presented one by one on www.youtube.de/361grad until September. Keep checking the channel. After only two days live, the site had received more than 500,000 views!
In Hungary, we’re well into our second year of an exciting program called WeAreOpen. It’s rallying cry is: “Being open is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also worth it.” To date, more than 750 companies, communities and organisations, big and small, have signed up in support This year’s version launched in March with a social media campaign to counter hate speech. Musicians, actors, celebrities, and Internet users (including students, doctors and teachers) shared their own experiences, taking a stand against prejudice, showing support for Roma, lesbians, gays,, Jews and handicapped. Their videos have received more than 200,000 views on YouTube.
This year’s WeAreOpen 2014 features research from the Gemius consulting firm about diversity and tolerance at the workplace. It found that more than half of Hungarian employees have already encountered negative discrimination.
The virus of hatred, unfortunately, will not vanish. 361 Grad Respekt, WeAreOpen and many more initiatives promoting tolerance are urgently needed.
Posted by Richard Schuster and Mounira Latrache, Communications managers
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It’s not always that a private corporation and a civil rights NGO see eye to eye on key issues. But this is the case for Google and Index on Censorship.
For the fourth year in a row, we worked with Index on its annual awards event, which took place last evening at London’s Barbican Centre. This ongoing relationship reflects our common concerns about the ongoing and increasing government crackdown against the free and open Internet. Index has made a strong move to invest in the defense not just of print, radio and tv freedom – but also with us in defence of online freedom.
When we first learned about Digital Freedom Award, we were immediately impressed with its motto – celebrating the fundamental right to “write, blog, tweet, speak out, protest and create art and literature and music.” Google aims to provide a platform to promote just such a fundamental right. The Digital Freedom Award recognizes the original use of new technology to foster debate, argument or dissent.
|Google Digital Journalism Award winner Shubhranshu Choudhary|
Let’s be clear: Total editorial control remains with Index. Index, not us, chooses the nominees. Until now, distinguished juries have selected winners. But this year, we worked with Index on an innovation – asking the public to vote by filling in an online form.
This year’s nominees came from China, India, the U.S., and appropriately enough, cyberspace! There was whistleblower Edward Snowden, whose actions are well-known.
There was the Chinese microblogging Weibo, an uncensored version of China’s biggest social network, SinaWeibo. Free Weibo keeps track of and publishes everything which has been censored and deleted by the government, providing a fascinating insight into the regime’s priorities and fears.
There was TAILS - the Incognoto Amnesiac Live Operating System. Its open-source encryption tool helps protect the free online communication of journalists and sources in any country, regardless of official limits on free expression.
The winner came from India, journalist Shubhranshu Choudhary. He’s the brains behind CGNet Swara (Voice of Chhattisgarh) a mobile-phone (no smartphone required) service that allows citizens to upload and listen to local reports in their own dialect.
Please join us in congratulating Shubhranshu – and all the free-expression champions who shines a light on their ongoing struggle against censorship around the world.
Posted by William Echikson, Head of Free Expression, Europe
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For the past 14 years the Index on Censorship Awards have honoured some of the most remarkable fighters for free expression from around the world – from assassinated Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya to Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim and Syrian cartoonist Ali Farzat to education activist Malala Yousafzai. Until now, distinguished juries have selected all the winners. But this year, we’re working with Index on an innovation – asking the public to vote for the digital activist award, which honours the person who has done the most to defend online freedom.
Take a look at the nominees and vote here. Voting finishes next Monday, February 3, so please do act fast.
This is the fourth year Google has worked with Index on its annual awards event. Total editorial control remains with Index; they choose the nominees. We are just delighted to support this important organization’s new and important work in defence of online freedom. For a taste of the excitement surrounding the ceremony, watch last year’s highlight video below.
This year’s awards ceremony take place on Thursday March 20, 6.30pm, at the Barbican Centre in London. In addition to the digital defender award, three other awards will be given out, one for journalism, one for advocacy and one for arts. Tickets are available, so please do join us to celebrate free-expression champions and shine a light on their ongoing struggle against censorship around the world.
Posted by William Echikson, Head of Free Expression, Europe, Middle East and Africa
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For many years, Amnesty International and its 3.2 million members have stood up for human rights by organizing Write for Rights – an annual global letter-writing marathon. People from over 80 countries come together to support individuals and communities suffering human rights abuses. Today, with our support, Amnesty will mark the International Human Rights Day by building a new digital platform for this year’s Write for Rights Marathon.
Amnesty’s marathon website will focus on three cases: that of a community leader imprisoned because he tried to stop clashes between religious groups, that of a community that is living in makeshift shelters after their houses were demolished and that of a man brutally attacked by the police. The new website will link to YouTube to show videos of individuals and communities suffering human rights abuses.
This launch represents what we hope is just a beginning. Over the coming months, we will support Amnesty to build a platform that will help Amnesty to respond in a rapid and reactive way to human rights violations.
Amnesty has a unique way of humanising the often abstract issues around free expression. This new website represents not just a modernisation of its letter writing techniques; it also demonstrates an acknowledgement that the future of free expression depends much on the future of the open and free Internet, which anyone with a connection, anywhere in the world, can use to reach a global audience.
For the individual cases featured in Amnesty’s appeal, the impact of letter writing is often life changing, restoring their freedom. As Julio de Peña Valdez, a released prisoner of conscience from the Dominican Republic said after his release, “The letters kept coming and coming: three thousand of them. The president was informed. The letters still kept arriving, and the president called the prison and told them to let me go. After I was released, the president called me to his office. He said: ‘How is it that a trade union leader like you has so many friends from all over the world?’ He showed me an enormous box full of letters he had received and, when we parted, he gave them to me.”
We have always believed in the liberating power of technology: more information means more discussion, better choices and eventually more freedom. Our goal with Amnesty is to raise awareness of the critical human rights issues around the world, including free expression, creating international pressure for their resolution.
Posted by William Echikson, Head of Free Expression, Europe, Middle East and Africa.
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The Internet is a remarkable platform for giving each of us a voice to reach a global audience. In some cases, unfortunately, people abuse this freedom by publishing unlawful content. Europe’s E-Commerce Directive provides clear rules for dealing with this content without sacrificing the Internet’s broader free expression mission. Importantly, the law says platforms should not be forced to become Internet police, monitoring all content to prevent certain material from ever getting online.
In a Paris courtroom today, former Formula One head Max Mosley’s lawyers asked a judge to upset this balance by imposing an alarming new model of automated censorship. He wants web companies to build software filters, in an attempt to automatically detect and delete certain content. Specifically, Mr. Mosley demands that Google build a filter to screen Google’s index and proactively block pages containing images from our results – without anyone, much less a judge, ever seeing it or understanding the context in which the image appears.
We sympathize with Mr. Mosley, and with anyone who believes their rights have been violated. We offer well-established tools to help people to remove specific pages from our search results when those pages have clearly been determined to violate the law. In fact, we have removed hundreds of pages for Mr. Mosley, and stand ready to remove others he identifies.
But the law does not support Mr. Mosley’s demand for the construction of an unprecedented new Internet censorship tool. In repeated rulings, Europe’s highest court has noted that filters are blunt instruments that jeopardise lawful expression and undermine users’ fundamental right to access information. A set of words or images may break the law in one context, but be lawful in another. As an example, a filter might end up censoring news reports about Mr. Mosley’s own court case.
While constituting a dangerous new censorship tool, the filter would fail to solve Mr. Mosley’s problems. Pages removed from search results remain live on the Internet, accessible to users by other means – from following links on social networks to simply navigating to the address in a browser. As an example, one page Mr. Mosley sought to remove comes from a blog, which according to public sources, receives the vast majority of its visits from sources other than web search.
This not just a case about Google, but the entire Internet industry. If Mr. Mosley’s proposal prevails, any start-up could face the same daunting and expensive obligation to build new censorship tools — despite the harm to users’ fundamental rights and the ineffectiveness of such measures.
We don’t hold paper makers or the people who build printing presses responsible if their customers use those things to break the law. The true responsibility for unlawful content lies with the people who produce it; how web companies work to reduce this content is set out in the E-Commerce Directive. We hope that the courts of France and Germany, where Mr. Mosley has also filed suit, will reject his request for a censorship machine.
Posted by Daphne Keller, Associate General Counsel
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