YPP Network Description

The MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics (YPP) formed out of recognition that youth are critical to the future of democracy and that the digital age is introducing technological changes that are impacting how youth develop into informed, engaged, and effective actors.

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Research to challenge traditional approaches to digital rights

August 3, 2018 - 5:33am
Youth and privacy in the Americas: InternetLab, Brazil How do youth allies promote young people’s critical thinking on privacy, in informal learning contexts in the Americas? This blog post is part of a series showcasing the work of different organizations at the intersection of youth development, digital rights, and online safety. Quick facts Who: Mariana Valente from InternetLab What: Research Mission/vision: To foster academic debate around issues involving law and technology, especially internet policy. Where: […]
Categories: Blog

Empowerment for youth-friendly privacy law enforcement: Office of the Privacy Commissioner, Canada

July 4, 2018 - 8:31am
Youth and privacy in the Americas: Office of the Privacy Commissioner, Canada ————————- How do youth allies promote young people’s critical thinking on privacy, in informal learning contexts in the Americas? This blog post is part of a series showcasing the work of different organizations at the intersection of youth development, digital rights, and online safety. ————————- Quick facts Who: Kasia Krzymien and Anne-Marie Cenaiko, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada What: Investigation of data privacy […]
Categories: Blog

Natural Disasters and Environmental Events

May 14, 2018 - 6:58am
This post was collaboratively written by Liz Barry, Greg Bloom, Willow Brugh, and Tamara Shapiro. It was translated by Mariel García (thank you). Español debajo. Every year, communities are affected by “extreme environmental events.” These might include hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, or floods. There are, of course, official response agencies with mandates to rescue, feed, heal, and rebuild; however, the true first responders are always people who live in the affected regions — neighbors and community leaders. […]
Categories: Blog

Building Data Capacity Roundtable (Video Available)

April 24, 2018 - 6:00am
Our partners at the Stanford’s Digital Impact initiativerecently invited us to host a virtual roundtable discussion focused on building data capacity. In case you missed it, the recording and transcript are now online! We gave a quick background on the Data Culture Project. Then we tried a quick online data sculpture activity; asking participants to make and share a photo of a physical data story just using things they found around their office. From there […]
Categories: Blog

The Four Horsemen of the Free Speech Apocalypse: Emerging Conceptual Challenges for Civil Libertarians

April 10, 2018 - 7:41am
Last April, I blogged about a talk on trigger warnings I gave as a representative of the Board of the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), a nonprofit whose mission is to promote freedom of thought, inquiry and expression and oppose censorship in all its forms. Earlier today, at the request of Executive Director Chris Finan, I presented to the rest of the Board some early thoughts about ascendent challenges and emerging threats to those concerned […]
Categories: Blog

The Four Horsemen of the Free Speech Apocalypse: Emerging Conceptual Challenges for Civil Libertarians

April 4, 2018 - 7:05pm

Last April, I blogged about a talk on trigger warnings I gave as a representative of the Board of the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), a nonprofit whose mission is to promote freedom of thought, inquiry and expression and oppose censorship in all its forms. Earlier today, at the request of Executive Director Chris Finan, I presented to the rest of the Board some early thoughts about ascendent challenges and emerging threats to those concerned with the freedom of expression. What follows is a lightly edited version of my notes for that talk. Epistemic status: uncertain, but trying to trace lines to see where they might converge. Extremely interested in feedback.

There is, ironically, a common consensus that we live in a fractured public sphere. At the level of systems design, people worry about filter bubbles, echo chambers, and information cascades. At the level of ordinary politics, people worry about the ability to get opposing sides to agree on common facts, let alone effective policy. At the level of cultural coherence, canons are being challenged, and authority redistributed. Whether you blame liberals or conservatives, the alt-right or snowflake millennials, there is a shared understanding that the questions of who can speak to whom about what are more hotly contested today than they have been in some time.

However, there are more profound risks on the horizon for those invested in traditional conceptions of, and defenses for, free expression. The purpose of this blog post is to briefly outline four interrelated challenges to free expression activists that can't be solved by the old civil libertarian saw of "more speech == better speech." To be clear, when I say these are challenges, I don't mean they are necessarily good or bad developments. I just mean they present thorny problems for existing frameworks about free expression. They are: a growing conviction (that I share) that more speech does not necessarily mean better speech, the economics of attention making it harder to be heard, automated content production swamping human expression, and fake content that's indistinguishable from real content.

Conceptual challenge #1: conversational health and detofixication
The core thesis of this challenge was put nicely by Melissa Tidwell of reddit, in a New Yorker article regarding the company's efforts to "detoxify" its community:

Melissa Tidwell, Reddit’s general counsel, told me, "I am so tired of people who repeat the mantra ‘Free speech!’ but then have nothing else to say. Look, free speech is obviously a great ideal to strive toward. Who doesn’t love freedom? Who doesn’t love speech? But then, in practice, every day, gray areas come up....Does free speech mean literally anyone can say anything at any time?” Tidwell continued. “Or is it actually more conducive to the free exchange of ideas if we create a platform where women and people of color can say what they want without thousands of people screaming, ‘Fuck you, light yourself on fire, I know where you live’? If your entire answer to that very difficult question is ‘Free speech,’ then, I’m sorry, that tells me that you’re not really paying attention."

The framework of health and toxicity has also been recently adopted by Twitter, with CEO Jack Dorsey announcing initiatives to research the "overall health" of Twitter, a notable departure from the previously laissez-faire attitude of a company that used to describe itself as the "free speech wing of the free speech party."

In the not-so-distant past, social media companies largely tried to avoid policing what their users posted on their platforms, citing safe harbor provisions and/or libertarian philosophies and praising the Arab Spring as the result of their publishing tools. Today, as companies seek to expand and diversify their userbase (not to mention their engineering workforce), and confront the legal and economic challenges of their most noxious users, many platforms have shifted their own internal value-systems quite rapidly in the direction of a more nuanced understanding of speech beyond the simple (but common) conceit that more == better.

Conceptual challenge #2: the economics of attention overwhelming the economics of publishing
The core thesis of this challenge, argued persuasively by Zeynep Tufecki in her It's the (Democracy-Poisoning) Golden Age of Free Speech, is that the relevant scarcity, and therefore point of vulnerability, to the free expression of ideas is not the inability to speak but the inability to be heard:

Here's how this golden age of speech actually works: In the 21st century, the capacity to spread ideas and reach an audience is no longer limited by access to expensive, centralized broadcasting infrastructure. It’s limited instead by one’s ability to garner and distribute attention. And right now, the flow of the world’s attention is structured, to a vast and overwhelming degree, by just a few digital platforms...The most effective forms of censorship today involve meddling with trust and attention, not muzzling speech itself. As a result, they don’t look much like the old forms of censorship at all

In a whitepaper titled Is the First Amendment Obsolete?, Tim Wu argues that this change in communications technology requires rethinking the way we regulate speech or risk giving up on Constitutional approaches to improving the public sphere altogether. This paper is especially notable as it was published with the Knight First Amendment Institute itself. '

A corollary to this argument observes that, since most publishing is paid for by advertising, i.e. attention/surveillance, platforms are economically incentivized to promote outrageous content. Certainly this is nothing new: yellow journalism and tabloids have turned a profit off this dynamic for decades. However, these processes are now optimized and individualized to a degree of power and precision never before possible. Which brings us to:

Conceptual challenge #3: automated content production
The core thesis of this challenge is that automated content generation, directed by the prenominate economics of attention and advertising, will produce truly massive volume of toxic, outrageous expression and swamp human expression with the proximately computational. In a haunting essay entitled Something is wrong on the internet, James Bridle falls down the hole of weird YouTube videos that, at least in some cases, appear to be computationally generated at massive volume in order to capitalize on the long tail of advertising dollars.

If smart scripts can reverse-engineer popular titles and keywords, and then mash pixels together to produce cut-ups of pop culture references, then Borgesian libraries of content can be manufactured and posted with none (or nearly no) human intervention. Nor is this dynamic limited to YouTube videos: algorithmic content generation and on-demand production means that you end up with screenprinted tshirts that read "KEEP CALM AND RAPE A LOT" by virtue of random pairings of nouns and verbs. As James Grimmelmann writes in The Platform is the Message, in "the disturbing demand-driven dynamics of the Internet today...any desire no matter how perverse or inarticulate can be catered to by the invisible hand of an algorithmic media ecosystem that has no conscious idea what it is doing."

When humans create perverse or disturbing content, we chalk it up to sickness or to creativity, and institutionalize or memorialize accordingly. But when computers do it, at the scale and volume made possible by digital reproduction and incentivized by the economics of advertising, the sheer flood of content may overrun the stream that people can produce, drowning distinctions between good and bad, and obviating the idea of a "conversation" together except as occurs through algorithmic feedback.

Conceptual challenge #4: documentation that is fake but indistinguishable from real
The core thesis of this challenge is that new technologies that can produce fake content indistinguishable from real content will create a collapse of trust and/or rebuild it through invasive and surveillant technological means. Of all the challenges, I believe this to be the most profound and deeply dangerous. The unholy trinity of technologies that can totally destroy the concept of documentary truth include:

  • Tacotron 2, Google's new text-to-speech system that is virtually indistinguishable from a human voice
  • Digital doppelgangers, through which researchers have been able to generate convincing speaking faces from pictures and audio to make people "say" things they never in fact said
  • DeepFakes, a software package that allows moving faces to be mapped seamlessly onto body doubles

In a recent post for Lawfare, Bobby Chesney and Danielle Citron recognized the grim national security implications for these technologies. Grimmer still are some of the proposed solutions, like the concept of digital signatures embedded in cameras so as to track and verify the creators of videos, which, even if it worked psychologically (as the author of the linked article admits it might not), risks building an even greater surveillance ecosystem, or undermining real (but unsigned) videos from everyday people.

So, these are the four horsemen of the free speech apocalypse. While the current controversies about speech and expression are difficult enough to navigate, to me, these risks seem to approach the existential. People who believe in the value of free expression and free speech must plan to confront these challenges soon or risk having the moral and normative ground melt away beneath their feet.

free speechfree expressioncensorshipactivismsocial networks
Categories: Blog

A tabletop game on privacy in Costa Rica: Sula Batsu

April 2, 2018 - 2:17pm

 

How do youth allies promote young people’s critical thinking on privacy, in informal learning contexts in the Americas? This blog post is part of a series showcasing the work of different organizations at the intersection of youth development, digital rights, and online safety.

Quick facts

Who: Vivian Zúñiga from Sulá Batsú

What: Litigation, campaigning, research

Mission/vision: To promote local development through solidary social economic practices in different fields, including information and communication technologies

Where: Costa Rica

Since: 2005

Years of operation (as of February 2018): 13

Works in the fields of: Digital technologies, computer use, digital stories, digital security

Post summary: Sulá Batsú is a cooperative in Costa Rica promoting local development through information and communication technologies; to address the topic of digital security with youth, they designed a tabletop game.

Highlight quote from the interview: “Teaching methodologies need to be adaptative and emergent. When I arrive at a workshop, I don’t have a full show set up. I have learned that things always change and participants have a lot more to say, and I have a lot more to learn. Yes, you must come in with an idea of what needs to be achieved, but nothing that cannot change.”

More resources: Sulá Batsú’s website

Vivian Zúñiga, Sulá Batsú
 

Sulá Batsú is a cooperative that, since 2005, works to promote local development through solidary social economic practices. In a globalized world, information and communication technologies (ICT) have become one of the main fields to promote their vision. Vivian Zúñiga has been affiliated with the cooperative for over a decade and has been one of the driving forces behind their efforts on youth and technology.

 

Sulá Batsú’s work with youth started as a partnership with Fundación Telefónica, the foundation of one of the primary telecommunications companies in Costa Rica. They went to different parts of Costa Rica to hold workshops under the ‘Digital stories’ umbrella: from taking good photos with mobile phone cameras to digital security basics. Their interest in youth has influenced Sulá Batsú’s programs more broadly; TIC-as, their program on gender equality and technology in rural areas of Costa Rica, has created spaces and networks for young rural women specifically.

 

In the digital rights and security ecosystem, Sulá Batsú’s work with youth shows an interesting context that, in my experience, organizations and researchers from the global north struggle to contemplate. On the one hand, local civil society deals with the specific legislative challenges of the Cybercrime Law passed in 2012, modeled after the Budapest Convention – which has been criticized by human rights organizations worldwide for enabling intrusive surveillance without institutional safeguards (Rodriguez, 2011). On the other hand, they don’t have access to some of the tools most widely associated in the global north with countersurveillance efforts.

 

“I can’t come into a community and pose solutions that won’t work for us. Signal does not work well in Central America”. Signal is a communications application for mobile phones that has long been promoted in digital security circles because of its end-to-end encryption and open source development, in an advocacy attempt to promote secure communications by the most failproof and usable means to less technically savvy users.  

 

In the spirit of proposing context-sensitive solutions, Sulá Batsú realized that security workshops in particular can be heavy, and that the topic can be distant from people. After a five-month research process with Fundación Telefónica, they decided to make the learning more fun through a game called Huellas, or footprints. Two to six players have to match online risk scenarios with good practices to accumulate the largest number of tokens. The goal is to “identify scenarios where they know they are at risk of having their rights violated online, so that they can identify and adopt good practices for safe use of the internet”.

 

Why a fun take on security trainings for youth? “We feel that there isn’t much information for youth on this topic. And they can believe that their own information is not important”. Vivian says that their work was motivated partly by prominent cases where personal data of youth were misused in Costa Rica (like in many other of the contexts described by interviewees in this blog post series), as well as cases where young people were being expelled from schools because of incidents related to privacy.

 

For Vivian, work on security with youth does not happen in a vacuum, isolated from other social issues. “When we work with youth, we have to change our language, sometimes for something as simple as complying with the norms of the environment where we meet them. When we go to a school, even saying the word “sex” can be problematic – in Costa Rica, new guides on sex education have come out, annoying the far right movement on the one hand, but raising challenges for educators on the other.”

 

For an organization focused on local development, valuing the local over broader, more global views on technology influences not just the solutions they propose, but also their thematic and pedagogical choices. After working with mothers who have children who use ICT, they decided to provide trainings that would address the digital gap they witnessed between both generations. They focused on giving them options that would help mothers keep their own privacy in devices that were also touched by small, agile hands. They frame these workshops as “Digital technologies”, or as “Computer use” in some communities, depending on the local language.  

 

“In our workshops, it’s about listening to people’s realities and adapting to them. With some of these women, we end up taking a computer apart so that they can see where the internet comes from. For them, being able to see where their information is being stored is very eye-opening”.

 

So what is Vivian’s advice for other people who want to work in promoting digital security? “Teaching methodologies need to be adaptative and emergent. When I arrive at a workshop, I don’t have a full show set up. I have learned that things always change and participants have a lot more to say, and I have a lot more to learn. Yes, you must come in with an idea of what needs to be achieved, but nothing that cannot change.”


You can read more about Sulá Batsú on their website.

youthactivismdigital securityprivacyLatin America
Categories: Blog

A tabletop game on privacy in Costa Rica: Sula Batsu

April 2, 2018 - 10:17am
How do youth allies promote young people’s critical thinking on privacy, in informal learning contexts in the Americas? This blog post is part of a series showcasing the work of different organizations at the intersection of youth development, digital rights, and online safety. Quick facts Who: Vivian Zúñiga from Sulá Batsú What: Litigation, campaigning, research Mission/vision: To promote local development through solidary social economic practices in different fields, including information and communication technologies Where: Costa […]
Categories: Blog

Youth and gender lens in countersurveillance work in Paraguay: TEDIC

March 27, 2018 - 12:46pm

 

How do youth allies promote young people’s critical thinking on privacy, in informal learning contexts in the Americas? This blog post is part of a series showcasing the work of different organizations at the intersection of youth development, digital rights, and online safety.

Quick facts

Who: Eduardo Carrillo from TEDIC

What: Web development, campaigns, workshops, research

Mission/vision: To promote the respect of digital rights and free/open culture

Where: Paraguay

Since: 2012

Years of operation (as of February 2018): 6

Works in the fields of: Digital rights, free/open culture, personal data, countersurveillance, digital security

Post summary: TEDIC is a digital rights and free/open culture organization best known for their campaigns on privacy to resist State and corporate surveillance, and they address youth and gender-based issues in their workshops on digital security.

Highlight quote from the interview: “We [promote critical thinking about online privacy] by talking about concrete cases with local implications. People start to share and dialogue is ignited. It sometimes shows lack of understanding of the technological landscape, but solutions arise from participants themselves too”.

More resources: TEDIC website; EFF blog post on their successful Pyrawebs campaign, and their beautiful website on corporate surveillance in Paraguay at El Surtidor.

Interview with Eduardo Carrillo, TEDIC
 

TEDIC is a digital rights and free/open culture organization in Paraguay. Like other organizations that will be featured in this series, they recognize other social struggles not necessarily as part of their core mission, but as lenses through which they carry out their work: gender, internet as a space that replicates violence and as an opportunity for emancipation; and access to public information. In that same spirit, they have worked with youth throughout the years; Eduardo Carrillo is the youngest TEDIC member, and it is his first job since he graduated from International Relations in university. I am grateful to have learned more about TEDIC through his generous interview.
 

TEDIC are best known for one of their big legislative wins: on the face of a data retention bill, they created a campaign, Pyrawebs, that remixed a guaraní term for citizen informants that enacted State surveillance in times of Stroessner’s dictatorship. The campaign, which had strong support from youth groups in Paraguay, eventually succeeded in stopping the bill. You can read the story on EFF’s blog (or, if you are interested in the campaign tactics, I wrote about them in Spanish for InfoActivismo). Interestingly enough, this did not mean that TEDIC would always be an adversarial organization; they were collaborators in the National Cybersecurity Plan in Paraguay, and have participated in the national plans of action for the open government movement.
 

Now their main focus is research on the implications of open government data for personal data management. They partnered with an online outlet, El Surtidor, to create a second Pyrawebs campaign and raise awareness on corporate surveillance. This time, a beautifully illustrated scroll website explains personal data law and corporate surveillance practices in Paraguay, in a youth-friendly language.

 


Over 6000 telephone numbers were reported [for spamming or scamming in Paraguay]. How do these numbers get our data?” One of the illustrations on El retorno de los Pyrawebs, “The comeback of the Pyrawebs”.

 

My purpose in interviewing TEDIC was understanding what it looks like for a digital rights organization in Latin America to contemplate youth and gender issues as part of their agenda. Eduardo said, “More than thinking specifically about youth, we consider it a transversal topic in or work”. It is seen in how they invite participants to their events, for example. The organization reaches out to media channels consumed by young people in Paraguay to invite them to some of their other events, like the ‘Ilústrame la data’ (Illustrate my data) workshop.
 

“We did a data bootcamp to talk about platforms for access to info. We didn’t want a hackathon to promote new platforms but use the existing ones and do storytelling with the available data. We reached out to the student centers in the main universities of the country, especially in journalism schools. I went to leave flyers and speak with school authorities to get permission for students to take the day off to attend”.
 

Eduardo says that this approach also means leveraging their strong alliances with other similarly-minded individuals and organizations in the digital rights ecosystem in Latin America to do collaborations. TEDIC hosted a feminist technology workshop with Coding Rights and Internet Lab (one of the organizations interviewed for this series) to discuss the gender-based privacy implications of menstrual apps, data collection practices and GIS. They also worked with trans women on digital security, response to online harassment and corporate censorship.
 

In their workshops, they “always do a general overview at first; then we talk about the global context of digital security and espionage. Then we translate it to our particular context so that people understand it from their own experience. Then we go into measures that can be taken to address certain situations. Finally we discuss help channels”. They contemplate “holistic security practices, which aren’t necessarily just digital, but also legal, physical and emotional”.
 

How does TEDIC try to get participants to think critically about privacy? Eduardo says they do so by “talking about concrete cases that have local implications”. In the digital security workshop with trans women, they spent a long time doing critical readings of the terms of service, and the implications of real name policies for trans women in a context like Paraguay. “People start to share and dialogue is ignited. It sometimes shows lack of understanding of the technological landscape, but solutions arise from participants themselves too”.
 

This is a response to what Eduardo describes is a common phenomenon in the digital rights world: “Organizations losing their grassroots perspective” on the face of the global implications of internet debates. This approach, however, depends on the climate at the workshop or event. “If people don’t know each other, it doesn’t get personal quickly. If there is a sense of belonging, it becomes easier. In the first case, leaving time for people to approach you after workshop works.”
 

What are the next steps for TEDIC in the evolution of their privacy work with regard to their focus on youth and gender issues? Expanding their take on what ‘youth’ means. So far, they have focused on individuals aged 18 to 35, not teenagers. And they also hope to make their work more participatory. “In Paraguay, people can feel scared of speaking in large groups”.
 

Ultimately, however, why is an organization like TEDIC invested in youth implications of digital rights issues? Eduardo describes their underlying concern: “I agree that there is a protectionist, dramatic, sensationalist discourse in regard to youth safety online, like we saw in regard to Sarahah and Blue Whale last year. There is little empowering discourse aimed at youth. And the topic in the background of all this is how youth today are understood as a passive subject in their community, not as as a collective that can create change".


You can read more about TEDIC on their website; about their successful Pyrawebs (v.1) campaign on the EFF blog, and see their beautiful illustrated campaign on corporate surveillance in Paraguay at El Surtidor.

 

youthactivismLatin Americaprivacy
Categories: Blog

Youth and Gender Lens in Countersurveillance Work in Paraguay: TEDIC

March 26, 2018 - 8:46pm
How do youth allies promote young people’s critical thinking on privacy, in informal learning contexts in the Americas? This blog post is part of a series showcasing the work of different organizations at the intersection of youth development, digital rights, and online safety. Quick facts Who: Eduardo Carrillo from TEDIC What: Web development, campaigns, workshops, research Mission/vision: To promote the respect of digital rights and free/open culture Where: Paraguay Since: 2012 Years of operation (as […]
Categories: Blog

Youth and gender lens in countersurveillance work in Paraguay: TEDIC

March 26, 2018 - 6:55pm

 

How do youth allies promote young people’s critical thinking on privacy, in informal learning contexts in the Americas? This blog post is part of a series showcasing the work of different organizations at the intersection of youth development, digital rights, and online safety.

Quick facts

Who: Eduardo Carrillo from TEDIC

What: Web development, campaigns, workshops, research

Mission/vision: To promote the respect of digital rights and free/open culture

Where: Paraguay

Since: 2012

Years of operation (as of February 2018): 6

Works in the fields of: Digital rights, free/open culture, personal data, countersurveillance, digital security

Post summary: TEDIC is a digital rights and free/open culture organization best known for their campaigns on privacy to resist State and corporate surveillance, and they address youth and gender-based issues in their workshops on digital security.

Highlight quote from the interview: “We [promote critical thinking about online privacy] by talking about concrete cases with local implications. People start to share and dialogue is ignited. It sometimes shows lack of understanding of the technological landscape, but solutions arise from participants themselves too”.

More resources: TEDIC website; EFF blog post on their successful Pyrawebs campaign, and their beautiful website on corporate surveillance in Paraguay at El Surtidor.

Interview with Eduardo Carrillo, TEDIC
 

TEDIC is a digital rights and free/open culture organization in Paraguay. Like other organizations that will be featured in this series, they recognize other social struggles not necessarily as part of their core mission, but as lenses through which they carry out their work: gender, internet as a space that replicates violence and as an opportunity for emancipation; and access to public information. In that same spirit, they have worked with youth throughout the years; Eduardo Carrillo is the youngest TEDIC member, and it is his first job since he graduated from International Relations in university. I am grateful to have learned more about TEDIC through his generous interview.
 

TEDIC are best known for one of their big legislative wins: on the face of a data retention bill, they created a campaign, Pyrawebs, that remixed a guaraní term for citizen informants that enacted State surveillance in times of Stroessner’s dictatorship. The campaign, which had strong support from youth groups in Paraguay, eventually succeeded in stopping the bill. You can read the story on EFF’s blog (or, if you are interested in the campaign tactics, I wrote about them in Spanish for InfoActivismo). Interestingly enough, this did not mean that TEDIC would always be an adversarial organization; they were collaborators in the National Cybersecurity Plan in Paraguay, and have participated in the national plans of action for the open government movement.
 

Now their main focus is research on the implications of open government data for personal data management. They partnered with an online outlet, El Surtidor, to create a second Pyrawebs campaign and raise awareness on corporate surveillance. This time, a beautifully illustrated scroll website explains personal data law and corporate surveillance practices in Paraguay, in a youth-friendly language.

 


Over 6000 telephone numbers were reported [for spamming or scamming in Paraguay]. How do these numbers get our data?” One of the illustrations on El retorno de los Pyrawebs, “The comeback of the Pyrawebs”.

 

My purpose in interviewing TEDIC was understanding what it looks like for a digital rights organization in Latin America to contemplate youth and gender issues as part of their agenda. Eduardo said, “More than thinking specifically about youth, we consider it a transversal topic in or work”. It is seen in how they invite participants to their events, for example. The organization reaches out to media channels consumed by young people in Paraguay to invite them to some of their other events, like the ‘Ilústrame la data’ (Illustrate my data) workshop.
 

“We did a data bootcamp to talk about platforms for access to info. We didn’t want a hackathon to promote new platforms but use the existing ones and do storytelling with the available data. We reached out to the student centers in the main universities of the country, especially in journalism schools. I went to leave flyers and speak with school authorities to get permission for students to take the day off to attend”.
 

Eduardo says that this approach also means leveraging their strong alliances with other similarly-minded individuals and organizations in the digital rights ecosystem in Latin America to do collaborations. TEDIC hosted a feminist technology workshop with Coding Rights and Internet Lab (one of the organizations interviewed for this series) to discuss the gender-based privacy implications of menstrual apps, data collection practices and GIS. They also worked with trans women on digital security, response to online harassment and corporate censorship.
 

In their workshops, they “always do a general overview at first; then we talk about the global context of digital security and espionage. Then we translate it to our particular context so that people understand it from their own experience. Then we go into measures that can be taken to address certain situations. Finally we discuss help channels”. They contemplate “holistic security practices, which aren’t necessarily just digital, but also legal, physical and emotional”.
 

How does TEDIC try to get participants to think critically about privacy? Eduardo says they do so by “talking about concrete cases that have local implications”. In the digital security workshop with trans women, they spent a long time doing critical readings of the terms of service, and the implications of real name policies for trans women in a context like Paraguay. “People start to share and dialogue is ignited. It sometimes shows lack of understanding of the technological landscape, but solutions arise from participants themselves too”.
 

This is a response to what Eduardo describes is a common phenomenon in the digital rights world: “Organizations losing their grassroots perspective” on the face of the global implications of internet debates. This approach, however, depends on the climate at the workshop or event. “If people don’t know each other, it doesn’t get personal quickly. If there is a sense of belonging, it becomes easier. In the first case, leaving time for people to approach you after workshop works.”
 

What are the next steps for TEDIC in the evolution of their privacy work with regard to their focus on youth and gender issues? Expanding their take on what ‘youth’ means. So far, they have focused on individuals aged 18 to 35, not teenagers. And they also hope to make their work more participatory. “In Paraguay, people can feel scared of speaking in large groups”.
 

Ultimately, however, why is an organization like TEDIC invested in youth implications of digital rights issues? Eduardo describes their underlying concern: “I agree that there is a protectionist, dramatic, sensationalist discourse in regard to youth safety online, like we saw in regard to Sarahah and Blue Whale last year. There is little empowering discourse aimed at youth. And the topic in the background of all this is how youth today are understood as a passive subject in their community, not as as a collective that can create change”.


You can read more about TEDIC on their website; about their successful Pyrawebs (v.1) campaign on the EFF blog, and see their beautiful illustrated campaign on corporate surveillance in Paraguay at El Surtidor.

youthactivismLatin Americaprivacy
Categories: Blog

Youth-friendly data protection in Mexico: Articulo 12, A.C.

March 22, 2018 - 1:32pm
How do youth allies promote young people’s critical thinking on privacy, in informal learning contexts in the Americas? This blog post is part of a series showcasing the work of different organizations at the intersection of youth development, digital rights, and online safety. Quick facts Who: Cédric Laurant from Artículo 12, A.C. What: Litigation, advocacy, materials for youth Mission/vision: To defend Mexican users’ privacy on and offline through litigation Where: Mexico Since: 2013 (but the […]
Categories: Blog

Youth-friendly data protection in Mexico: Articulo 12, A.C.

March 19, 2018 - 11:51am

 

How do youth allies promote young people’s critical thinking on privacy, in informal learning contexts in the Americas? This blog post is part of a series showcasing the work of different organizations at the intersection of youth development, digital rights, and online safety.

Quick facts

Who: Cédric Laurant from Artículo 12, A.C.

What: Litigation, advocacy, materials for youth

Mission/vision: To defend Mexican users’ privacy on and offline through litigation

Where: Mexico

Since: 2013 (but the team had worked together in different spaces since 2011)

Years of operation (as of January 2018): 5

Works in the field of: Data protection, privacy

Post summary: Artículo 12’s data protection program called “Son Tus Datos” carries out litigation and advocacy to close the gap between data protection legislation and practice in Mexico, which places them in the ecosystem of digital rights organizations in the country – and they use their platform to address the implications for youth rights.  

Highlight quote from the interview: “Even on websites and sites that are cleary intended for youth, the [privacy] language is like that of lawyers communicating to adults”

More resources: Son Tus Datos’ institutional website; and Defensores Digitales, their website for youth

Interview with Cédric Laurant, Artículo 12, A.C.
 

Cédric Laurant is a data lawyer and researcher who had worked in Europe, the United States, Peru and Colombia before he moved to Mexico. There, he started Artículo 12 and its data protection program “Son Tus Datos”. Artículo 12 is an organization that defends users’ privacy on and offline through legal processes. At the time, data protection was not included in the portfolio of the more established non-profit organizations working on transparency, freedom of expression or journalist protection.
 

Artículo 12 is best known for Filtraciones Digitales, a website where corporate workers can whistleblow data breaches that otherwise go unreported. The goal of their work is to have enterprises notify victims when their data is breached. In 2016, they found that a wide spectrum of companies in 7 industrial sectors were not at all prepared to notify their data breaches to their clients, customers or users affected. “It’s not just about disseminating information on human rights, but actively protecting rights through legal processes. We want to use existing law, interpreting it in a way it has not been interpreted before, to flag companies that do not comply with the law, and if required, denounce them.”
 

Their work in corporate litigation shows that, like some of the other organizations featured in this blog post series, Artículo 12 does not self-identify as a “youth rights” organization, nor does it work primarily with youth. However, they are one of the digital rights organizations in Mexico with projects that address younger audiences.
 

One of these projects was the translation of European Digital Rights’ (EDRi) “Digital Defenders” materials into a book and the adaptation of its characters into two web games intended to teach digital security to 9-14 year-olds. “EDRi’s guide is interesting: it addresses the topic from the heroes perspective, with a narrative adapted to discuss privacy, while engaging youth. They presented heroes that, instead of broadly protecting society, protect your privacy. They also presented evil characters. Someone protects your passwords, and there is an enterprise trying to steal your information”.

 

Help the Queen of Passwords choose a secure password – one of the games on DefensoresDigitales.org

 

Artículo 12 seizes the opportunities provided by privacy controversies to advocate for the rights of youth. When a leak on Australian media showed that Facebook had been working with advertisers to target over six million psychologically vulnerable teenagers, they wrote a letter to the Facebook office in Mexico and the National Institute for Access to Information and Protection of Personal Data to find out if a similar experiment had been carried out in the country. They also joined organizations led by the Center for Digital Democracy in the United States in writing a letter to Mark Zuckerberg.
 

Why is an organization like Artículo 12 interested in youth at all? “There is a whole discourse that says that kids don’t worry about anything; however, when we take a closer look, youth are generally more familiar with digital tools than adults sometimes. They know better than their parents how to manage privacy on their Facebook accounts and mobile phones. They have developed ways to avoid family or corporate monitoring. Danah boyd has written about the ways youth protect their privacy. So we need to teach them and give them more ways to protect themselves. Help themunderstand how their personal data can be abused.”
 

“Age-appropriate language would help youth not feel powerless before a privacy notice. Sometimes, youth don’t know what to do, how to complain about what’s happening. Even on websites and sites that are cleary intended for youth, the [privacy] language is like that of lawyers communicating to adults”. Cédric thinks this understanding on the side of youth users is necessary to close the gap between data protection legislation and corporate actions. When users know their rights are violated, they can seek out organizations that will help them challenge corporate practices.
 

One of these organizations is None of Your Business, a new European Union-based non-profit organization that defends the right to privacy through collective actions against enterprises. Their work is essential in the face of the impending General Data Protection Regulation which will be enforced in the European Union later this year. Cédric mentions them as an organization that inspires the work of Son Tus Datos; however, their work style cannot yet be replicated in Mexico, where class action lawsuits have not been exercised.
 

Regardless of the limitations of doing privacy work in the Mexican context, the work carried out by Artículo 12 shows a productive way out of the tension between digital rights advocacy and youth rights at large. “The reason why not many organizations want to work on youth issues is that many stakeholders use data protection of minors as a way to limit the freedoms of adults by enabling surveillance practices. For example, in the US there have been legislative attempts to ‘protect kids from pornographic sites’ by asking people to send a copy of their ID to use them. They wanted to protect kids but ended up reducing privacy”. Through their work, Cédric and his team give a different take on the defense of digital rights that does not ignore youth needs.


You can read more on Artículo 12’s data protection program at sontusdatos.org; and on Defensores Digitales, their website for youth.

Categories: Blog

Youth and privacy research in Chile: Derechos Digitales

March 15, 2018 - 5:40am

 

How do youth allies promote young people’s critical thinking on privacy, in informal learning contexts in the Americas? This blog post is part of a series showcasing the work of different organizations at the intersection of youth development, digital rights, and online safety.

Quick facts

Who: Patricio Velasco from Derechos Digitales

What: Litigation, campaigning, research

Mission/vision: To defend, promote and develop human rights online, through advocacy in public policy and private practices, for a more egalitarian and just region.

Where: Chile

Since: 2005

Years of operation (as of February 2018): 13

Works in the field of: Privacy, data protection

Post summary: Derechos Digitales is a digital rights organization doing qualitative research on youth and privacy as part of its work to improve data privacy legislation in Chile.

Highlight quote from the interview: “Research like this shows interesting tensions in the narratives around youth: challenging the common framing of kids as people who are incapable of understanding the perils and threats of the internet and therefore should be controlled, by showing that, like everyone else, they can contemplate different threats and especially the practical skills needed to deal with them”.

More resources: Derechos Digitales’ website, direct link to their report on youth and privacy in Latin America

Interview with Patricio Velasco, Derechos Digitales
 

Derechos Digitales is one of the first digital rights organizations in Latin America. With over a decade of work, countless publications and campaigns, many human rights organizations in the region point to them as one of the main references for privacy work in the Americas. Patricio Velasco is a researcher at Derechos Digitales and the lead author behind their report on children, youth and privacy in Latin America.
 

Patricio, a sociologist, has always been interested in the configuration of public space and the distinction between public and private. His research motivation for the report was to give a regional take on how youth and children today understand “privacy”, and to what extent it can be construed as a limit of the public sphere. The motivation for the organization, however, was a legislative debate that was sorely in need of different perspectives.

Chile is discussing its personal data legislation, and a common view is that its proposals are insufficient to protect the privacy of youth and children. Derechos Digitales’ question is: “if the protection that the State can give is not as good as the one we want, we need to see what’s happening on the other side: youth. What are the abilities of children and youth to effectively manage their internet resources?” They recognize that risks still exist, and adequate institutional protections are necessary, “but the context still begs the question”.
 

Why are youth at the center of this discussion? “Digital literacies vary by age. What interests me are the grey areas. What is happening with this intermediate generation [the parents of today] is that they have a conscience about the need for some control over their kids’ use of the internet, but kids have more skills than their parents and so their ability to exert control is less”.
 

Youth privacy, more broadly, is also “related to a bunch of problems we see today. Non-consensual image sharing is an extreme case of this; managing personal data in an environment of big data; bullying in online environments. For Derechos Digitales, it is a deeper concern that goes beyond specific cases or public discussions”.
 

Derechos Digitales’ report on child and youth privacy was born as a research project that intended to use regional data from Global Kids Online, an international research project that collects information on children’s use of the internet. Originally, they wanted to compare Global Kids Online data from three Latin American countries (Brazil, Argentina and Chile) with that of a benchmark country in Europe. However, Derechos Digitales was unable to secure access to regional data; they were only able to look at some data from Brazil on a published report, and compare it to Global Kids Online data from Turkey and Poland.
 

With regard to kids’ privacy practices, Global Kids Online data studies kids’ ability to delete web history, to block people with whom they do not want to speak, and to change their privacy settings on social networks. In their comparison, Derechos Digitales found a relation between privacy choices and the household income of different participants, and looked at other factors like class and gender.
 

“Research like this shows interesting tensions in the narratives around youth: challenging the common framing of kids as people who are incapable of understanding the perils and threats of the internet and therefore should be controlled, by showing that, like everyone else, they can contemplate different threats and especially the practical skills needed to deal with them”.

 

 

Derechos Digitales’ report on child and youth privacy (available here)

 

For Derechos Digitales, research is the first step that will then feed other forms of advocacy. Patricio thinks the organization might use this research to think of youth capacity building the way their research on gender has led them to develop special privacy workshops for women and journalists. For Derechos Digitales, capacity building requires to leave normative approaches aside.
 

“The organization has addressed topics like sex in the online environment, and the message has never been to say ‘you should not have sex online’. We have said that, if it’s a practice you are considering, there are some things you need to have in mind; talking about risks, thinking about the underlying social structures and individual agency, is essential for a truly free choice. Ultimately, the question we ask ourselves is how to enable everyone to control their privacy the way they desire, when not all of us have the same resources”.
 

This approach is consistent with the organization’s overall take on safety online, which is seen, for example, in their work on countersurveillance: “the logic of online protection presupposes more or less total knowledge of existing threats and best practices. Appealing to control relies on defined, limited situations that we get to know only from adult points of view. And it is an erroneous presupposition. To exert control over others tacitly implies that one is aware of all threats, and that aspiration seems laughable.” On the other hand, “data shows that youth do have consciousness of the potential threats”.
 

During the first semester of 2018, Derechos Digitales will be publishing more qualitative research on youth and privacy, carried out in collaboration with Chilean university students. “What we want to understand is what is it that end users —youth— consider in their own ways of thinking to be the limits of public and private. We have lots of work left to do in promoting those skills.”


You can read Derechos Digitales’ report on youth and privacy here (in Spanish), and all of their research in English here.

youthprivacyLatin Americaresearchyouth
Categories: Blog

Youth and privacy research in Chile: Derechos Digitales

March 15, 2018 - 1:40am
How do youth allies promote young people’s critical thinking on privacy, in informal learning contexts in the Americas? This blog post is part of a series showcasing the work of different organizations at the intersection of youth development, digital rights, and online safety. Quick facts Who: Patricio Velasco from Derechos Digitales What: Litigation, campaigning, research Mission/vision: To defend, promote and develop human rights online, through advocacy in public policy and private practices, for a more […]
Categories: Blog

Launching the Data Culture Project

March 5, 2018 - 8:46am

Learning to work with data is like learning a new language — immersing yourself in the culture is the best way to do it. For some individuals, this means jumping into tools like Excel, Tableau, programming, or R Studio. But what does this mean for a group of people that work together? We often talk about data literacy as if it’s an individual capacity, but what about data literacy for a community? How does an organization learn how to work with data?

About a year ago we (Rahul Bhargava and Catherine D’Ignazio) found that more and more users of our DataBasic.io suite of tools and activities were asking this question — online and in workshops. In response, with support from the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, we’ve worked together with 25 organizations to create the Data Culture Project. We’re happy to launch it publicly today! Visit http://datacultureproject.org to learn more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Data Culture Project is a hands-on learning program to kickstart a data culture within your organization. We provide facilitation videos to help you run creative introductions to get people across your organization talking to each other — from IT to marketing to programs to evaluation. These are not boring spreadsheet trainings! Try running our fun activities — one per month works as a brown bag lunch to focus people on a common learning goal. For example, “Sketching a Story” brings people together around basic concepts of quantitative text analysis and visual storytelling. “Asking Good Questions” introduces principles of exploratory data analysis in a fun environment. What’s more, you can use the sample data that we provide, or you can integrate your organization’s data as the topic of conversation and learning.

Developing Together

We built DataBasic.io to help individuals build their data literacy in more creative ways. We’ve baked in design principles that focused on learners (read our paper), argued to tool designers that their web-based tools are in fact informal learning spaces (watch our talk video), documented how our activities are particularly well suited to data literacy learners (read another paper), and focused them on building a data mindset (read our opinion piece).

These activities and tools were designed and iterated on with interested users (with support from the Knight Foundation). We develop all our tools based on the problem organizations bring to us. Our latest grant was a partnership with Tech Networks of Boston, who brought years of experience working with organizations to develop their capacity and skills in a variety of ways. We prototyped a first set of videos, for the WordCounter “Sketch a Story” activity with them, and tried it out in a local workshop with some of their partners and clients.

Trying Out a Model — the Data Culture Pilot

Based on how that went, we recruited 25 organizations from around the world to help us build the Data Culture Project. Non-profits, newsrooms, libraries, community groups were included in this cohort, and we created a network to help us guide our prototyping. Over the last 6 months, each group ran 3 activities within their organizations as brown-bag lunches.

It was wonderful to have collaborators that were willing to try out some half-baked things! After each workshop, they shared how it went on a group mailing list. Then each month we hosted an online chat to get feedback and share insights and common points from the feedback.

Even in these prototype sessions, the participants shared some wonderful insights. Here are just a few:

  • “It did lead to a pretty significant rethink fo the communications director for what is coming out in the spring.”
  • “I hear back from participants regularly about how much they enjoyed the activities and wondering what comes next.”
  • “As they were working through their data sets, they kept coming up with more questions it made them wonder about and more things to consider about those questions.”
  • “They can relate everything back to their own situations / data / organizations.”

We were heartened and excited to see that our design partners were able to see impacts already!

How to Join the Community

We are launching the Data Culture Project today. Here’s how to make the best use of the project and the community:

  • Read about why you don’t need a data scientist; you need a data culture to understand why data literacy needs to be understood as a community capacity, in addition to an individual capacity.
  • Run one or more of the activities listed on the Data Culture Project home page. We found in the pilot that running one per month (and providing pizza) can work to bring people together.
  • Remix and modify the activity to work for you and tell us about it! At the bottom of each activity page, you’ll see a “Learn With Others” comment box where you can tell others what worked for you (á la Internet food recipe sites).
  • Join our mailing list to connect with others working on creative approaches to building capacity in their organizations (and be the first to hear about new activities and projects).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remix and modify the activity to work for you and tell us about it! At the bottom of each activity page in the Data Culture Project, you’ll see a “Learn With Others” comment box where you can tell others what worked for you (á la Internet food recipe sites).

We are grateful to the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society for supporting the development of the Data Culture Project. The Data Culture Project is headed by Rahul Bhargava and Catherine D’Ignazio, undertaken as a collaboration between the MIT Center for Civic Media and the Engagement Lab@Emerson College, and with the assistance of Becky Michelson (project manager) and Jon Elbaz (research assistant).

Categories: Blog

Codesign with youth in Argentina - Faro Digital

March 5, 2018 - 7:50am

 

How do youth allies promote young people’s critical thinking on privacy, in informal learning contexts in the Americas? This blog post is part of a series showcasing the work of different organizations at the intersection of youth development, digital rights, and online safety.


Quick facts

Who: Ezequiel Passeron from Faro Digital

What: Workshops, talks and campaigns

Mission/vision: To promote, through co-design, the responsible use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for a more just society

Where: Argentina

Since: 2016 (but the team had worked together in different spaces since 2011)

Years of operation (as of February 2018): 2

Works in the field of: Responsible use of ICT, digital citizenship

Post summary: Faro Digital works with youth, through co-design workshops and talks, to discuss topics related to digital citizenship and the responsible use of ICT. This work in schools and spaces helped them create a notable campaign on safe sexting.  

Highlight quote from the interview: “To raise awareness in youth, we need to co-work rather than just bring an adult-centric view of responsible use, safety, privacy.”

More resources: Faro Digital’s website, press coverage of their safe sexting campaign

Interview with Ezequiel Passeron, Faro Digital

 

Ezequiel is part of a collective of young communicators who use their understanding of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to promote a fair society. This Argentine collective started working together in 2011, and established a non-profit organization called Faro Digital in 2016.

 

Faro Digital (Digital Lighthouse) gives talks and facilitates workshops on the responsible use of ICT in schools, in NGOs, and in spaces where marginalized communities gather. They also train teachers and parents on the ways that they can get involved in youth education in regards to the digital world.

 

As communications professionals, they have always shared a vision with the youth they serve: social media are great tools for communication. But they see that the adults around youth do not always share that view. Faro Digital see a need to explain to adults what is going on with youth in digital spaces, and to promote adult involvement in youth’s digital lives. They want to bridge this intergenerational gap by connecting adult family members with their children, and teachers with their students.

 

Ezequiel argues that connecting adults and youth can allow them both to reflect and learn together about responsibility online, which is the framing that Faro Digital favors to articulate its mission. Yet they are aware that “responsible use of ICT” is not necessarily a catchy term that will get youth excited about a workshop. A lot of their work aims to find shared vocabulary that generates empathy among youth; not to impose formal terms, but to use the terms youth already use.

 

They don’t want youth to feel like they are subjects of study, but rather collaborators, people who are having fun. At the same time, they also want young people to reflect about what they do online. Their overall framing of responsible use of ICT sometimes takes form in conversations about what it means to take care of oneself and others online; about bullying, sexting and non-consensual image sharing.

 

This points at a key element that distinguishes Faro Digital’s work from that of other organizations in the same field: their genuine commitment to co-design in the process. “To raise awareness in youth, we need to co-work rather than just bring an adult-centric view of responsible use, safety, privacy.”

 

Their work in co-design was inspired by the failures they saw when youth weren’t involved in the design process. “We failed in our first years. We had quantitative objectives, we wanted to teach and give tools, but then we saw that youth didn’t respond well to the discursive distance between us. Things we cared about didn’t resonate with them. Sometimes they just told us what we wanted to hear. To address this, we needed a structured methodology with goals, but unstructured enough to give youth agency in the process.”

 

Faro Digital’s work in co-design has been largely inspired in the Digitally Connected network initiated by Youth and Media at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, and in Lionel Brossi’s research and work in the University of Chile. But what does co-design look like in Faro Digital’s work in Argentina? They have two types of sessions: one-hour, to fit into the periods that schools grant them, and the longer two-hour.

 

In the one-hour sessions, they spend fifteen minutes interacting with the youth, asking what they like about the internet, what they don’t like about the internet, and what they would like to learn about it that nobody has taught them. Then they focus on two topics: with younger kids, they focus on grooming and cyberbullying; with older kids, they focus on digital footprint and sexting. They play a couple of videos, and kids are asked to come up with solutions to the problems they identify.

 

In the two-hour sessions, participants are divided into small teams. They start out each session asking youth to map out the online media they consume and spaces in which they participate: videogames, social networks, influencers. As a consensus-building exercise, they choose one of the networks or games they included, and then it’s time to analyze what they like about them, what they would change about them, and what they find bothersome about them. For Ezequiel, that’s where critical thinking begins.

 

Participants then are asked to pick a problem and think of solutions for it in different formats (campaigns, applications, even emoji). After this exercise, they wrap up the last twenty minutes with a conversation on digital citizenship topics, depending on the age of the group they are working with. With 9-11 year-olds, they talk about grooming; with older youth, they talk about sexting.

 

For Ezequiel, “some topics are always more successful than others, but a lot of it comes down to how you present them. I think audiovisual content is essential in this. When we play videos, there is no one who doesn’t pay attention; they are used to consuming this type of content”.

 

This creative methodology helps address some of the difficulties related to working as external forces in a setting where they will have a very limited amount of time with the youth. “At first, it’s challenging to build trust and participation. That’s why we speed into creative work; to help them feel comfortable with us and like they belong in this activity. For me, one of the most effective tactics is to turn fast when there are awkward silences. If we think there is lack of participation because it’s a painful or boring topic, we try to improvise and deviate the conversation from there”.

 

Through co-design, the responsible use of ICT becomes a discussion on digital citizenship’s hottest issues. But what are the underlying power dynamics that get uncovered through these conversations? For Ezequiel, the conversations that Faro Digital facilitates among youth enable critical thinking on gender oppressions, otherness and intergenerational trust.

 

Gender oppressions become clear as youth start to discuss sexting. When asking about their views on sexting, the Faro Digital facilitators make a point of asking about the gender identity of those in the most widely circulated photos – and why do they think that is the case. “At this point we have stopped talking about internet itself and now we are talking about society.” Talking about famous cases or the “fad of spreading photos on WhatsApp” can help warm up youth for this conversation.

 

Our relationships with others are a central topic of discussion also when Faro Digital facilitates a discussion on digital footprint. By discussing what youth find when they look for themselves on a search engine, and what they expect jobs will be able to find when they look for them after high school, they talk about one’s control in using the internet as a business card – an unrealistic stance. “We try to talk about the role of the other -- the impact that sharing photos without consent, or tagging those who don’t want to be tagged, can have on these searches”.

 

Faro Digital’s conversations on grooming don’t rely on stranger danger narratives; they are about showing that meeting people online is not bad, and about restoring trust on the adults around them. “The objective is for them to understand that adults must take care of them, even if they don’t understand ICT. That sometimes, even if their first reaction if we tell them we are being sextorted is to be angry, their anger is related to their fear for us. And to not let that anger stop us from asking for help”. In Argentina, there is a public phone line against grooming, as well as legislation.

 

“Lots of kids criticize what they see everyday because it’s hard to ask for an ethical use of ICT when we take a snapshot society today. We see lots of violence, little empathy. Bullying and cyberbullying happening in most schools in Argentina. It’s by pointing at the unethical that the conversations about ethics begin. They received little education in values and what that meant for their use of technology, and I think that’s something that worries them. We have heard answers from youth saying, ‘I have to behave well, be careful online, but nobody does that. Why am I not going to be part of the mass that insults, that discriminates others online?’ It’s complex for youth because they are living in a society that shames, publishes everything all the time. I think this makes ethical use complicated”.

 

Having difficult conversations does not need to be boring, and, according to Ezequiel, the power of the co-design process can can be seen in the energy that’s generated in these spaces. “What educators who are there everyday tell us that their kids struggle to feel interested, to engage in everyday activities like this. And the high level of interaction we see shows that this is working. We can see interest and genuine answers about what they think”.

 

The lessons they have learned in Argentinean schools and youth spaces inspired Faro Digital to do a campaign on sexting. When they saw the disconnect in youth’s perceptions between sexting and non-consensual image sharing, and contrasted it with victim-blaming campaigns against sexting, they decided to take a different stance: remind youth that it is their right to sex, but they should do so carefully: opting for anonymity and secure messaging and storage.

 

 

#SexteáConLaCabeza, Faro Digital’s campaign for safe sexting

“It’s better to cover [your head] now than having to wear costumes later”

   

This campaign opened new collaboration possibilities for Faro Digital. Movistar Argentina reached out to collaborate with them as they did a campaign on grooming. The organization will launch a new campaign on Facebook focused on how not to share images of others, and is currently working on qualitative research on youth uses of digital tools funded by Google, and a campaign on “Convivencia digital”, digital coexistence, with UNICEF Argentina and the Government of Buenos Aires.

 

Though the responsible use of ICT was the core of their mission as they started, their main focus today is generation of methodologies to understand and co-create on what technology more broadly means for youth. They are interested in children’s creative and innovative uses of technology, as they think that that is where the potential of transformation lies.

 

Outside of workshops and campaigns, what would Faro Digital recognize as the natural progression of their mission? A digital cultural center where kids can go to learn about robotics, code, media-making, ignite talks; a space where youth can find something that changes their life. “We have a long way to go in seeing mediators (educators, parents, etc) use these tools to help kids find their passions”.

 

Ezequiel’s frustration with the Argentinean education model is that it’s too structured and insists on labeling youth. “The possible paths are too rigid and most youth don’t fit into them, and the internet could help us find our own and create a world where everyone can thrive”. If you involve youth in the creative process, the responsible use of ICT for a more just society can support broader youth development goals: it can allow you to seize “the potential of self-discovery enabled by access to new technologies”.


You can read about Faro Digital, and some coverage of their #SexteaConLaCabeza campaign here.

youthactivismprivacyLatin America
Categories: Blog

Launching the Data Culture Project

March 5, 2018 - 3:46am
Learning to work with data is like learning a new language — immersing yourself in the culture is the best way to do it. For some individuals, this means jumping into tools like Excel, Tableau, programming, or R Studio. But what does this mean for a group of people that work together? We often talk about data literacy as if it’s an individual capacity, but what about data literacy for a community? How does an organization learn […]
Categories: Blog

Codesign with Youth in Argentina – Faro Digital

March 5, 2018 - 2:50am
How do youth allies promote young people’s critical thinking on privacy, in informal learning contexts in the Americas? This blog post is part of a series showcasing the work of different organizations at the intersection of youth development, digital rights, and online safety. Quick facts Who: Ezequiel Passeron from Faro Digital What: Workshops, talks and campaigns Mission/vision: To promote, through co-design, the responsible use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for a more just society […]
Categories: Blog

Social media helplines for positive and safe school climates - iCanHelpline

February 27, 2018 - 6:43pm

How do youth allies promote young people’s critical thinking on privacy, in informal learning contexts in the Americas? This blog post is part of a series showcasing the work of different organizations at the intersection of youth development, digital rights, and online safety.

Quick facts

Who: iCanHelpline.org (run by The Net Safety Collaborative)

What: A social media helpline for schools

Mission/vision: To help U.S. schools and districts reduce cyberbullying and grow student safety and positive school climates

Where: Based in Salt Lake City and serving schools nationwide

Since: 2015 (based on research since 2000)

Years of operation (as of January 2018): 2.5

Works in the field of: youth online safety

Highlight quote from the interview: “We are trying to humanize the process, get educators to see that it’s not really about technology. Every incident involving young people is unique – as individual as the people involved. We ask administrators who call what’s going on, what platform, if local media have reported on it, if they’ve reported it to the app or internet company, or if they need help with that. [...] In order to do any of this, often they need help from students because they don’t know how to use the app. In most cases students have brought them the issue because they don’t like the negativity either. So we encourage them to work with their students and develop their digital leadership.”

More resources: iCanHelpline.org, NetFamilyNews.org


Interview with Anne Collier, iCanHelpline.org and the Net Safety Collaborative

 

I want to start this post disclosing that Anne’s views, through her writing and through our conversations, have helped me articulate my vision on youth safety that supports, not undermines, youth agency – and I am honored to start this blog post series with her most recent initiative.

 

Anne is a youth advocate; the author of one of the most robust, nuanced and informative sources on youth and media in the United States (and anywhere, in my Latin American opinion); and a true connoiseuse of the evolution of advocacy and research in the field of youth and technology. Through twenty years of work on youth and online safety, Anne looked for practical approaches that served youth, and it became clear to her that the missing piece in the US was an Internet helpline. In 2016, she founded iCanHelpline – the topic of this interview.

 

iCanHelpline is based in the United States, and run by The Net Safety Collaborative. It is the place “where schools and districts can call or email to get help in resolving problems that surface in social media – problems that threaten students’ safety such as cyberbullying, impersonation, harassment and sexting”. This means that the helpline does not work directly with youth, or even with parents: they work with school staff.

 

For the purposes of this series of interviews, I decided not to focus exclusively on allies that work directly with youth; working with other audiences can be key in youth allyship, and iCanHelpline’s strategic decision to work with schools supports this rationale. “My research through the years has shown me that most messaging has been about kids with engaged parents and a significant proportion of our kids don’t have that support but need it. Those at-risk kids may or may not have engaged parents, but virtually all of them are in school. It seemed logical to start there”.

 

Why a helpline? Anne recalls that, in 2006, when kids were adopting MySpace and other platforms, a lot of initiatives were undertaken to fill in the knowledge gaps for parents, policymakers and media, from taskforces to Anne’s own writing on Net Family News. To her, “now, at the beginning of this decade, it felt more and more like we could keep writing and trying to guide parents, but it wasn’t going to get us anywhere”. Anne looked at practical approaches that served youth in English-speaking countries, and found early examples of helplines in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

 

In addition to these countries, the European Commission had funded helplines in many EU countries; however, the United States did not have what’s called an “Internet helpline” yet. Anne worked with other colleagues from the world of net safety to set up a pilot, modeled after the UK’s internet helpline, and explore different sustainability models.

 

This is a blog series about youth and privacy. But Anne considers her work to be in the field of net safety. In a changing landscape of encompassing ideas, from the media literacies of the last decade to the digital citizenship of today, Anne considers that being deliberate about our approach to the framing of youth safety is key in the recognition of youth agency in the process:

 

“In the first 15-or-so years of Internet safety, all the messaging, from politicians to civil society organizations, was along the lines of ‘be careful with what you post as it can come back to haunt you.’ It was all about consequences to oneself and online in isolation – keeping yourself safe, your personal information private, your ‘digital reputation’ positive. Youth were represented almost entirely as potential victims. There was no focus on you as a stakeholder in a community–online, offline or both–on a participant in keeping things safe for yourself, your peers and your communities. Agency wasn’t even a component of ‘digital citizenship,’ which, at least in the U.S., has been about good digital behavior typically for the purpose of “classroom management.”

 

“Thankfully, there’s increased discussion about the importance of resilience in sustained wellbeing, online and offline. For too long in the public discussion about youth online safety, we neglected the development of resilience and other internal safeguards such as media literacy and the skills of social-emotional learning (or “social literacy”) in favor of surveillance and control: parental control tools, rules, policies and laws. These have their place, but there was an inherent imbalance. They’re all external to the child and send the message that only outside forces, never their own and their peers’ resources, are what keep them safe.

 

“Infrastructure certainly plays a safety role too,” she said, referring to one of “seven properties of safety in a digital age” she proposed in 2012, “providing users with the tools and know-how to counter social cruelty, report abuse and take responsibility for their own and each other’s wellbeing and that of their communities.” Through her interaction with major internet companies, she’s seen progress there, but “still not enough support on any adults’ part for young users’ agency. All the stakeholders – parents, educators, companies, policymakers and, through the conditioning of 20 years of Internet safety messaging, even youth – default too much to thinking that adult-to-child instruction about, and adult monitoring and control of, the online part of their lives are how that part stays positive and good.”

 

Bringing fresh perspective and focus to youth agency is recent work on researchers’ part aimed at adding the “digital” piece to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Anne said. She pointed to a special issue of the journal Media & Society, “Children and young people’s rights in the digital age: An emerging agenda.” The editors, Profs. Sonia Livingstone in the UK and Amanda Third in Australia, “highlight a crucial policy imbalance worldwide where, they write, ‘Efforts to protect [youth] unthinkingly curtail their participation rights in ways they themselves are unable to contest.’ The imbalance they’re referring to,” Anne continues, “is an over-focus on their rights of protection, which jeopardizes their agency.”

 

So “because social media use is as individual as anyone’s social life,” she says, ”maybe the most practical way to educate adults about the pluses and minuses of teens’ social media use on a case-by-case basis, through a helpline that meets caregivers’ need to resolve problems when they arise.” By taking calls from school personnel trying to address cyberbullying and other social cruelty online, Anne and her helpline collaborators “are trying to steer schools away from defaulting to law enforcement and see if they can work on a solution with the students who want the problem resolved”. Anne says nearly two-thirds of cases they’ve been called about came to administrators from students, who don’t like drama and social cruelty any more than adults do. By working with students, she said, administrators see that students are “part of the solution much more than they’re part of the problem, honoring their agency and potential for digital leadership. Internet helpline work, she said, is “much more about adolescent development than crime and punishment, and we want to see more and more schools focus on restorative rather than punitive approaches to online problems as well as offline ones.”

 

School personnel call the helpline most often to try to get harassing content taken down. “Which is fine. Let’s meet that need, and in the process send the message that even problems in and with tech are actually more about humanity than technology. That’s not always easy to hear, but our process is simple. We find out what’s going on, what platform’s involved – sometimes it’s more than one – if local media have reported on it, if schools have reported it to the internet companies and if they need help with that. [...] And in order to do that, many times they need help from students because they don’t know how to use the app.”

 

Once schools have reported the problematic content, iCanHelpline leverages its relationships with different internet companies to help expedite the process. Anne says that companies are “typically very responsive” in getting harmful content deleted.

 

This is all part of the complaint escalation model, which has complications: It means that only users who understand the abuse reporting tools or have access to the correct intermediaries are likely to see a prompt response to their reports, largely excluding users outside the global north (Athar, 2015). It also means that intermediaries like iCanHelpline and other helplines can’t always meet callers’ expectations because they can’t themselves act on Internet companies’ Terms of Service or community guidelines; only the companies themselves can. And these intermediaries bear the responsibility placed on them by the public without being able to guarantee a satisfactory outcome and without remuneration from the companies for making their users' experiences safer.

 

But the fact is that, as of today, companies still struggle to respond to requests in a timely manner in the face of masses of user-generated reports, and the role of intermediaries like iCanHelpline is essential both in helping companies address time-sensitive issues more promptly and in helping users understand the reporting options available to them. “Schools and other institutions responsible for user safety don’t understand social media companies and systems, and a lot of the reports companies receive are not actionable because of a lack of context for what’s being reported,” Anne said. Most of the reports are what the companies call ‘false positives,’ coming in with inaccurate or inadequate information.”

 

In other countries, many of these helplines are largely government-funded, but Anne says she’s not convinced this is the right funding model in the United States – at least not now, in a politically charged environment.

 

“I think, ideally, support comes from a consortium of companies whose users are receiving help from these intermediaries around the world. But it’s complicated,” she adds. “Societies don’t yet understand that there’s this new intermediary layer that helps both users on the ground and the services in the cloud. Users get help and perspective, companies’ moderation teams get pre-screened context – and this is on top of the traditional help layer, with vertical-interest help services for suicide prevention, mental healthcare, support for domestic violence victims and all the other established services for offline issues.

 

“The new middle layer is unprecedented, so the business model has not yet been figured out, and meanwhile these companies, some of which have users in every country on the planet, are getting requests for funding from an unimaginable number of NGOs. They need some solid analysis of the safety ecosystem – the education parts for prevention and the helplines, hotlines and law enforcement agencies for intervention. I’d like to see an international gathering of representatives from both the prevention and intervention sides.” For now, iCanHelpline is operating under the subscription model.

 

With more funds, “we’d do a lot more marketing: it’s all about uptake and letting schools know that this is available to them. But that’s complicated too, because many schools still think of cyberbullying and other problematic digital content as ‘off-campus speech’ that isn’t their responsibility to address,” Collier said. “Another challenge, I think, is that schools are conditioned to believe that nothing can be done about harmful digital content. The social media companies are really stepping up now, but they weren’t as responsive in social media’s first decade, so schools, parents and users in general came to think they were on their own. Not only is social media, not to mention a service like this, hard to wrap their brains around, but they’ve developed stopgap measures, that we don’t think really work for social cruelty online – like calling in the tech coordinator, the school resource officer, or the district Title 9 lawyer. So little of what happens in social media is about tech, actually, and certainly not something you call the cops about. But people don’t know that”.

 

In an independent evaluation of the iCanHelpline’s service, 93% of the educators who called were “extremely satisfied” or “very satisfied.” I personally like to think that these are all users who will never assume that nothing can be done to improve youth’s experiences online.

 

“The public discussion and the news media, with the tremendous negativity toward young people’s use of social media, even if contradicted by research and the new sociology of childhood, does frame youth as victims. It is rooted in old-school consumer media culture – the previous media era, not this one. Not only does it apply to young media users today, it disempowers them. That should not be,” Anne said. A content takedown request becomes a pretext to promote understanding among educators and to encourage them to collaborate with their students to resolve problems together – and, ultimately, enable youth to improve their experiences online, rather leave them alone with their devices or drag their social tools away from them. For Anne, this form of practical work serves all stakeholders, including the youngest ones.

 

You can read about iCanHelpline, and all of Anne Collier’s extensive writing on youth and media at Net Family News.

 

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