Monday, January 04, 2016

Digital civil society requires analog civil society action

This video from the Open Society Foundations sums up the promise and peril of digital data, infrastructure, and governance to civil society. It is no coincidence that threats to civil society are increasing as we become more digitally dependent
"Solidarity between the online blogger and the gay rights activist, between the NGO that's getting shut down and the social movement that's turning out on the streets. Because although those actors might look and think that they're different from each other, what they have in common is they're all manifestations of our right to organize and mobilize..."
            Danny Sriskandarajah
            Secretary General and CEO

Yes, we can use digital tools to expand free expression and assembly; yes, these tools can be used to expand the voices we hear and participation by many. But civil society actors - in the US specifically - are fooling themselves if they think that digital tools are innately and always democratizing.

Civil society actors - in the US this means nonprofits and foundations as well as social movements, protestors, and activists - must protect the right and capacity to organize online, to express oneself and assemble peaceably outside of government or corporate control in digital spaces, if we are to maintain that right and capacity offline.

The digital rights agenda is civil society's agenda.

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