Discover more from The Checklist
Digital Authoritarianism in Bengladesh, Big Tech in the Amazon
Also, Co·Insights at the National Science Foundation Convergence Accelerator Expo
We hope you’re staying safe and healthy.
In this edition, we look at the legal instruments used in Bangladesh and Tunisia to punish dissent and the role of big tech in tackling disinformation in West Africa.
But first, horrible news from Myanmar where four democracy activists have been executed by Myanmar's military in what is believed to be the first use of capital punishment in decades.
In Bangladesh, an oppressive law, the Digital Security Act (DSA), is being used to pick out and punish dissenting voices. The DSA was passed in 2018 and it is considered more repressive and draconian in nature than the law it replaced.
A recent report argued that social media platforms need to commit more resources to Africa to tackle misinformation both online and offline. This would include setting up regional trust and safety units and expanding their indigenous content moderator workforce.
In Tunisia, the new constitution that President Kais Saied has put to a referendum on 25 July, is threatening the progress that press freedom has made during the past decade in Tunisia. A CJR report describes the current state of the press and freedom of speech in Tunisia.
Finally, a recent investigation by Reporter Brasil has revealed how illegal gold leaves the Amazon and ends up on cell phones or computers. The 4 most valuable companies in the world were the final destination of the product of two refiners.
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The latest top stories
If blackouts don’t work, what might? Tackling fake news in West Africa (African Arguments)
Misinformation often spreads through social media and the internet, but it doesn’t stay there. It moves between online and offline environments with regularity and ease. Offline rumours can then return online, reinforcing the falsehood or skewing reality even further. These links between online and offline networks are just one reason internet shutdowns are not a feasible solution to tackling West Africa’s fake news epidemic. In fact, the uncertainty sowed by blackouts can make rumours more widely believed.
“Platforms need to commit more resources to Africa. This would include setting up regional trust and safety units and expanding their indigenous content moderator workforce. They need to understand the disinformation ecosystems, take steps to penalise repeat offenders, and demonetise fake news” — Rosemary Ajayi, founder of the Digital Africa Research Lab
Digital authoritarianism in Bangladesh: Weaponising a draconian law to silence dissent in the pandemic era (Global Voices)
During the early days of the pandemic, citizens became vocal on social and mainstream media about the government’s ineffective response and the corruption of ruling party leaders...Except for a few arrests of local leaders linked to corruption, the government’s response was to go after anyone airing criticism. It fiercely applied legal instruments against journalists, academics, ordinary citizens, and even government officials and doctors speaking out about these issues. An oppressive law, the Digital Security Act (DSA), was used to pick out and punish these dissenting voices.
The DSA has cultivated a culture of fear and self-censorship among citizens. Civil society members, journalists, political activists, and ordinary citizens are now forced to think twice before writing or making comments online. There have been several protests and activist actions calling to abolish the draconian law, but the government has not acted on these calls.
A big step backward for Tunisia’s press (Columbia Journalism Review)
The proposed new constitution that President Kais Saied has put to a referendum on 25 July, poses a major threat to the progress that press freedom has made during the past decade in Tunisia.
“Tunisia’s journalists have made major and exemplary progress in the field of freedom of information since the 2011 revolution, but they now risk paying dearly in a reversal resulting from this referendum,” — Khaled Drareni, RSF’s North Africa representative
Myanmar’s junta has executed four prisoners including a former politician and a veteran activist, drawing shock and revulsion at the country’s first use of capital punishment in decades. Junta-controlled media reported on Monday that four men, including Phyo Zeya Thaw, a rapper and former lawmaker from Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, and the prominent democracy activist Kyaw Min Yu, known as Jimmy, had been executed. They were accused of conspiring to commit terror acts and were sentenced to death in January in closed trials.
“What else do we need to prove how cruel the murderous Myanmar’s military is?” -— Aung Myo Min, the human rights minister in Myanmar’s national unity government (NUG)
“The widespread and systematic murders of protesters, indiscriminate attacks against entire villages, and now the execution of opposition leaders, demands an immediate and firm response by member states of the United Nations." — Thomas Andrews, UN special rapporteur
Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon used illegal gold from Brazilian indigenous lands (Reporter Brasil)
Reporter Brasil reveals in an investigation how illegal gold leaves the Amazon and ends up on cell phones or computers. The 4 most valuable companies in the world were the final destination of the product of two refiners, the Italian Chimet and the Brazilian Marsam, whose production is contaminated by metal extracted from clandestine mining.
“Here in the North, we are complicit in the destruction of mining in Brazil […] Perhaps it is time to reverse the burden of proof: can these companies prove that they are not linked to potentially illegal flows of gold from Brazil?” — Christian Poirier, coordinator of Amazon Watch
What’s new at Meedan
Meedan's Co·Insights at the NSF Expo
Our very own Scott Hale, Meedan's director of research, took part in a panel discussion at the National Science Foundation Convergence Accelerator Expo to talk about the tools that Co·Insights offers to narrow the gap between research into misinformation and responses designed to curb it. The team also presented their work at the NSF expo Trust & Authenticity in Communications Systems track.
Co·Insights is an NSF-funded research project that enables community, fact-checking, and academic organizations to collaborate and respond effectively to emerging misinformation narratives that stoke social conflict and distrust. The easy-to-use, mobile-friendly tools allow community members to report problematic content and discover resources while cutting-edge machine learning analyzes content across the web to create valuable insights for community leaders and fact-checkers.
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