'Is technology really good for human rights?' asks Amnesty

An event for bloggers and other digital media at Amnesty International’s London Human Rights Action Centre on 22 February is asking "Is technology really good for human rights?"

Confirmed panellists are Susan Pointer, Google's Director of Public Policy & Government Relations; Andrew Keen (via video), author of  “Cult of the Amateur: How the Internet is killing our culture”; Kevin Anderson, blogs editor of the Guardian; and  Annabelle Sreberny, Professor of Global Media and Communication, School of Oriental and African Studies (with special interest in Iran, bloggers & social media). Rory Cellan-Jones, Technology Correspondent for the BBC, will chair.

The event will examine the roles, positive and negative, that digital media and social networks can have on human rights in the UK and around the world. While it’s an invitation-only event for an audience of bloggers, Amnesty is encouraging interaction from outside the auditorium via Twitter, using the #aitech hashtag and will be live tweeting from @newsfromamnesty. The organisation is also encouraging people to leave questions and comments on its blog at https://blogs.amnesty.org.uk/

The evening is one of a series of events linked to Amnesty’s forthcoming Media Awards, which recognise excellence in UK human rights journalism. The Digital category, won last year by Wikileaks, awards innovative digital content appearing for the first time on a UK-based website and covers news, blogs, features and comment or debate, audio and visual material. This year a new Sponsorship Fund will help smaller media outlets cover their cost of entry, opening up the awards to more blogs and less-mainstream sites. Closing date for entry to the awards is 1 March, more details at www.amnesty.org.uk/awards

Amnesty International’s Steve Ballinger, who is organising the event, said:

“It’s a great panel and we’re expecting a really lively debate. A lot of people want to know more about Google's role in China, and how technology companies balance their desire to offer a product to people around the world, with the pressures of working in a country that doesn’t respect people’s basic rights.

“The use of Twitter and other social media for human rights campaigning, particularly in Iran's 'Green Movement', is bound to be another hot topic.

“But I don’t think it’s going to be a complete love-in as far as technology and human rights are concerned.
Oppressive regimes use technology to monitor and suppress their citizens. And some advances in military and security technology have been truly frightening – we’ve called electro-shock devices the ‘torturer’s tool of choice’ as they cause incredible pain but leave no incriminating marks.”

Amnesty International UK has enjoyed campaign progress using social media, successfully challenging Shell via Twitter in 2009 until the company agreed to a webchat with Amnesty supporters.

Amnesty has worked closely with Bright One, a volunteer-run communications agency for the third sector, to organise this event. Find out more at www.brightone.org.uk

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