Recent news from the Center for Civic Media | MIT Center for Civic Media

Recent news from the Center for Civic Media

Cyber Harassment in the Global South: Nighat Dad at the Berkman Klein Center

What kinds of online harassment do women in Pakistan face, and what can we learn from Pakistan for our efforts to protect people around the world?

(this liveblog was written with Mariel García M)

Last week at the Berkman Klein Center, we were privileged to hear from Nighat Dad, a lawyer and global leader on human rights and the internet. Nighat is the founder of Pakistan's Digital Rights Foundation, a research based advocacy NGO that focuses on the role of ICTs to support human rights, democratic processes, and digital governance. Last year, Nighat started Pakistan's first hotline for people experiencing online harassment.

Podcasting for movement building

This post was originally published over at MIT CoLab.

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One of the most fulfilling experiences I have had this year was that of planning, recording and editing my first podcast episode ever (along with my collaborators… more about them coming soon). 

Mobile Security Primer for Activists

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At MIT's Day of Action, Nathan Freitas of Guardian Project led a workshop on mobile security for activists, focusing on various secure messaging apps available today, touching on their benefits and risks for different kinds of activities and communities.

Common messaging apps (and their secure setting)

  • Conversations (default, can also interface with other secure XMPP apps like ChatSecure and Zom)
  • Facebook Messenger (secret conversations setting)
  • iMessage (only for messages to another iPhone/iMessage users, i.e. "blue" messages)
  • Signal (default)
  • WhatsApp (default)

All of these apps transfer messages over the internet via your data plan. SMS messages are never encrypted and can additionally be seen by your telephone company, which is particularly insecure because metadata from phone companies can be acquired without a warrant. Instead, internet-based messaging apps can be secured using "end to end" encryption with their secure settings. This means that messages are encrypted and then conveyed over encrypted connections (HTTPS/TLS) between phones and servers.

It's important to understand what each service knows about its users and what it stores. This may include:

  • When you are connected to the internet
  • Your phone number for user identity purposes (thus, they can look up your name at the phone company)
  • Your network of friends, IF you uploaded your contact book

Because of end to end encryption, these companies generally don't have access to your messages unless you are using them on an insecure setting like green messages on iMessage (actually sent by SMS) or non-secret Facebook Messengers messages. Because of this companies under subpoena can only provide metadata, not the messages themselves. 

Mapping The Concepts of Content Warnings: Three Themes, Two Causes, & A Possible Path Forward

In summer 2015 I attended a meeting of the Freedom Expression Network (FEN) in Washington, DC. The FEN is an alliance of a few dozen civil liberties organizations convened by 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. I've served on the Board of Directors at NCAC since 2010, and was asked to address the FEN meeting on the topic of trigger/content warnings* in the context of higher education.

(*These terms are used somewhat interchangeably in this debate; since, as we'll discuss below, 'trigger warnings' are narrower in scope, I'll primarily use 'content warnings' for the rest of this essay)

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