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Meedan joins the open call by hundreds of civil society organizations and international agencies for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and Israel.
We dedicate this special issue of the Checklist to the Israel-Gaza war which enters its fourth week today.
“Today we stand on the side of the journalists who are risking their lives to report on this war, the activists, the human rights researchers and those who are risking their careers and affiliations to speak truth to power.”
We are an organization premised on the idea that communities should be able to assess content, structure those assessments consistently, and share them programmatically. They are always attributed. We allow, both technically and theoretically, that two fact-checkers can work on the same claim and arrive at differing conclusions. Knowledge, like language, is contextual. In war these differing contexts are not subtle differences in the meaning of a word, they are the difference between an act of defense and a war crime, between a terrorist and a victim of state terror, between a war criminal and a war hero, between a legitimate act of war and a genocide.
Even in the very act of signifying—the War on Gaza, the Israel/Palestine War, the Israel/Hamas war, the Israel/Gaza War—there is embedded a view of the truth of the war. Even as we name the event we are drawing conclusions.
War is a series of violences, and the condemnation of each violence is the justification for the next violence. And in the information war, the same dynamics are at play. My view of the truth becomes the proof of my inhumanity, and so you respond in a way that degrades my humanity. The relative anonymity/distance of online ‘interaction’ and the ease with which we can other and degrade and harass with keystrokes into our mobile devices only amplifies and accelerates this.
So, what can we as Meedan do against what feels like a hopeless situation and an impossible setting? First, we can stand as an organization opposed to violence in all its forms. It is a principle that allows us to condemn both the Hamas killings and hostage taking on October 7 and the ongoing IDF retribution. Second, we can stand as an organization that supports human rights as a grounding principle. There is no question that Israel has, in the name of security, compromised the fundamental human rights of an entire population. And, there is no question that my government’s senseless veto of the initial UN resolution for a ceasefire has cost two thousand Gazan children their lives.
Yes, I do realize that we are living in a world where lesser statements have cost people their jobs. But, in order for me to do my job, to lead an organization holding team members who have felt losses on both sides of this war, I need to try to explain where we stand.
Today we stand on the side of the journalists who are risking their lives to report on this war, the activists, the human rights researchers and those who are risking their careers and affiliations to speak truth to power.
So I would like to suggest that we do what we can as an organization to contribute to a world where crimes are cataloged, where harmful and false content is fact-checked, and where efforts to support or promote violence are flagged. In supporting the work of gathering this evidence we place ourselves on the side of history demanding international resolve to investigate and prosecute war crimes and acts of violence committed by non-state actors. We will try to support the work of memory and sense-making in the hope that one day our global institutions will have the wisdom and resolve to bring forward justice - and from that to build peace on a stable foundation.
Our work is grounded in the notion that understanding improves societies and that improved societies will mean healthier people -ie, less fear, less war, more education, more joy, more *peace* - I hope that we can see ourselves as a peace organization, somehow.
A full version of this statement can be read here.
Resources to respond to the Israel-Gaza war
An open-access library of resources for fact-checkers and human-rights defenders by a coalition including SMEX, Meedan and WITNESS
A communications blackout plunged millions of Gazans, including civilians, journalists, paramedic teams and aid agencies, in an information vacuum from October 27 to midday October 29 when connectivity was partially restored. Today, we stand in a moment fraught with the gravest of risks for further human rights violations and tragedy. As we confront this unprecedented crisis, the call for immediate, community-driven, collective action takes on an urgency like never before. The imperative to rally for human rights, transparency, and accountability cannot be overstated as we grapple with this critical juncture.
The systematic targeting of civilian lives and infrastructure, including power and communication networks, has inflicted a devastating toll on Gaza. This, coupled with the suppression of witness accounts in both Gaza and the West Bank as a result of content takedowns and biased content moderation is leading to a significant and alarming blind spot in the availability of reliable information and human rights documentation from these locations. There hasn’t been a more urgent time for civil society to come together to counter the spiraling effects of mis/disinformation, and strengthen our collective ability to document, debunk, archive, preserve online content, and build preparedness to deal with the war-induced vicarious trauma on our respective communities.
In an attempt to make a contribution in this direction, we started a coordinated effort across our three organizations—SMEX, Meedan and WITNESS—to develop an open-access suite of resources that could be useful for individuals and groups involved in archiving, OSINT, fact-checking and documentation efforts as part of the ongoing Gaza war.
Published under a ‘No Rights Reserved’ CC0 license, these resources cover a wide range of topics including, for example,
Tips for Filming Human Rights Abuses in Palestine
Tips for Fact-Checkers: Open-Source Investigation
Why Do We Preserve Online Content During the War
Collecting and Archiving Videos During the War: A Guide
Dealing with Shocking and Violent Images During War and Catastrophes
Tips for Safe Online Communication and Phone Battery Efficiency During the War, Among Many Others.
The resources are currently available in Arabic and English. Some have also been translated into Portuguese, Spanish and Hindi. This work is ongoing, and we will be working on more topics and adding further localisations over the next few days.
We invite you all to join this collective action through using, remixing and sharing these resources as helpful. If you would like to join our coalition, and/or contribute to content creation and localisations please get in touch. Please do also share with us any skills/issues gaps you believe are most important to ground future resources over the coming weeks.
How can you get involved?
We are currently working with dedicated teams of journalists, researchers, and human rights defenders to monitor, track and document instances of misinformation and human rights violations as part of the ongoing war, using open-source investigation tools.
This effort will result in the publication of a series of investigative reports, the first of which looks at the targeting of a bus of civilian refugees on October 13, 2023. This report will be published by one of our Beirut-based media partners in the next few days.
In addition to the publication of a series of investigative reports, our OSINT efforts include working to support civil society organizations and other fact-checking groups to build comprehensive, verified and annotated databases of crowd-sourced content which document the ongoing war. While we continue to think through future productive uses of these databases, making an argument in favor of both the mnemonic potential and value of crowd-sourced footage in time of conflict sets archiving as an organizational priority for us at this moment in the history of the region and the world.
Please reach out to us if you would like to support or be involved in these efforts.