Third Arab Bloggers Meeting, 3-6 October Tunis

I`ve been looking forward to this third edition of the Arab Bloggers meeting, the coolest Internet-social media related event I`ve ever attended. The last one in Beirut, 2009, was pretty amazing.

Sami Ben Gharbeia from Global Voices and Tunisian webplatform Nawaat, has just published the program of the first day.

For updates and Arabic version, please visit http://www.arabloggers.com

Day One: October 3rd, 2011

Doors open: 8:30
Start Program: 9:00
End Program: 5:45

Program Overview:

9:00 – 9:15 Opening

9:15 – 9:45 Rebecca MacKinnon: Fighting for Our Digital Rights: Threats and Opportunities.

Internet activism played an important role in the revolutions of Tunisia and Egypt, and in uprisings around the region. Meanwhile, a global struggle for control of the Internet is raging. It is time to stop debating whether the Internet empowers individuals and societies, and address the more fundamental and urgent question of how technology should be structured and governed to support the rights and liberties of the world’s Internet users. Even though the United States and European governments talk about “Internet freedom,” the truth is that the world’s democratic nations do not have clear answers for how best to balance law enforcement, national security, child protection, and economic interests with human rights and free expression on the Internet. All concerned citizens of the Internet around the world – global “netizens” – have an important role to play.

9:45 – 10:30 Panel Discussion: The Revolution Shall be Twitterised .

Moderator: Amira Al Husseini
Panelists: Sultan Al Qassemi, Manal Hassan, Ahmed Al Omran, Hisham Al Miraat, Ghazi Gheblawi and Razan Ghazzawi.

Twitter has played an instrumental role in the Arab revolutions. Many tweeps have worked around the clock, serving as relay stations, amplifying the voices of netizens across the Arab world. We held the megaphone for each revolution starting with Tunisia and then moving to Egypt. Following Egypt, the entire region seemed to explode. How did we manage to continue to cover the news, informing a growing audience of developments on the ground, tweet by tweet, minute by minute? On this panel, where we have tweeps with an overall following of more than 110,000 followers, we will examine different types of Twitter users, the measures they follow to verify their information and the journalism standards and ethics they bring to the table.

Sultan Al Qassemi (@SultanAlQassemi), from the UAE, commands a following of more than 78,000 on Twitter, providing up to the minute commentary on developments across the region; Egyptian Manal Hassan (@Manal) spent her days and nights at Tahrir Square witnessing and tweeting Egypt’s revolution to her 16,000 followers. With 17,000 followers, Saudi Ahmed Al Omran (@ahmed) continues to be a loud voice commenting on the Arab revolutions, surfing through heart-breaking videos from Syria and curating their content for us; Moroccan Hisham Al Miraat (@__Hisham), with almost 6,000 followers, reports on protests at home and the rest of the region from France; Libyan Ghazi Gheblawi (@Gheblawi) amplified news from Libya all the way from London and Syrian Razan Ghazzawi (@RedRazan) continues to use Twitter to tell us about the atrocities being committed by the Syrian regime.

Who are those tweeps? How do they work? Where do they get their information from? How credible is their news? What do they do to ensure that their news is accurate?

10:30 – 10:45 – Coffee Break

10:45 – 11:15 Moez Chakchouk: Towards the Development of internet in Tunisia: New challenges

The Chairman and CEO of the Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI), Moez Chakchouk, will highlight the importance of acting according to a clear strategy that needs to be adopted in the future for the development of Internet and broadband in Tunisia. This strategy should be implemented according to international best practices in the field and by taking into account the current situation of the country in terms of Tunisia’s achievements. We focus on constraints that have hindered more than a decade for any initiative or action from Internet stakeholders including civil society, private sector, public sector, multinational companies and foreign investors, etc. What is noteworthy is to tell the community of bloggers to participate in the dialogue on Internet governance by adopting the principles of neutrality, freedom and openness of Internet as well as considering privacy issues.

11:15 – 11:45 Zeynep Tufekci: Beyond Tahrir: Networked Activism in Post-Revolutionary Transitions

2011 is turning out to be a remarkable year in the Middle East and North Africa region–and beyond. In some countries, citizen movements have already ousted long-standing autocrats (Tunisia, Egypt) while in others we have witnessed an eruption of anti-dictatorship civil strife (Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya and elsewhere). Networked activism played a role in most of these uprisings through multiple means ranging from countering state censorship of news to the supporting of an anti-dictatorship public sphere. However, there are significant differences in the structure of post-revolutionary transitions compared with the anti-dictatorship struggle. In this talk, I will discuss some of these differences and attempt to start a conversation about the role of new technologies in post-revolutionary politics in the 21st century in terms of both opportunities and limitations for networked activism.

11:45 – 12:15 Marek Tuszynski: Get the picture! Images, evidence and activism in times of transition

We all know certain images associated with revolutions, do they have any meaning beyond pure symbolism? What role and function do they play? How do visual communications change when we move away from mass political mobilisation into a context of advocacy and the creation of democratic processes? what can be the role of visualisation and data in these situations?

This talk will present recent examples from the region and ask many questions about the function, role and importance of images and the role of data in times of political and social transition.

12:15 – 12:45 Arturo Buzzolan & Jacob Appelboom: Crash course of Mobile (SS7) privacy and security

The SS7 protocol and network is what allows mobile phone operators to communicate with one another. When the SS7 network was designed and deployed well defined boundaries existed. With the liberalization of the market, these boundaries have been extended beyond a point that was not imagined. In a sense, the walls of the so called “”walled garden”” have been opened.

We will analyze SS7 in relation to GSM networks and in particular how anyone (even a “”non-telco””) is able to locate mobile phones. Some reference to real world examples will be given. People will be educated and made aware of issues related to privacy and security.

12:45 – 2:15 Lunch Break

2:15 – 3:15 Screening of Zero Silence, a documentary about the Free Wor(l)d

Presented by Alexandra Sandels

Zero Silence is a documentary about young people in the Middle East who have grown angry over the authoritarian regimes they live in. These young people are using the Web to bring about change in their societies where free speech is controlled or censored.
Among other topics, the production will explore the impact of the Internet and non-traditional media such as social media and whistle-blowing sites on the Arab world and beyond through a new generation that uses the Web to get the free word out to organize, mobilize, collaborate and fight injustice.

3:15 – 3:45 Leila Nachawati: Citizen mobilizations and citizen communications: The Spanish 15 M movement and the Arab inspiration

How the Spanish 15 M movement emerged, inspired in the mobilizations South of the Mediterranean. Although the contexts are quite different and the Spanish population does not suffer the repression characteristic of Arab regimes, the way citizens all over Spain broke the wall of apathy taking public spaces back and organizing both online and offline shows a strong influence of the Arab uprisings. Institutional reaction to the movement and the tension between official narratives and decentralized citizen communications is also paralell to this tension during the Arab Spring and a global issue that affects governments and civil societies as a whole.

3:45 – 4:30 Panel Discussion: Tunisian Bloggers & Politics:

Moderator: Malek Khadhraoui
Panelists: Amira Yahyaoui, Riadh Guerfali (Astrubal), Tarek Kahlaoui, Mokhtar Yahyaoui, Mehdi Lamloum

On October 23, 2011, Tunisians will elect a national constituent assembly which will be writing the country’s new constitution. Seven Tunisian bloggers decided to join the election race. With more than 1700 electoral lists inside and outside the country, what will be the chance of the 7 Tunisian bloggers to be elected and what do they want to achieve?

4:30 – 4:45 – Coffee Break

4:45 – 5:30 Panel Discussion: Wikileaks and the Arab Spring: What is the Impact of Information on Social Change?

Moderator: Jillian York
Panelists: Mansour Aziz & Sami Ben Gharbia

On November 28th, only two weeks before the Tunisian revolution was sparked on December 17th, and just half an hour after the whistle-blowing site Wikileaks unleashed the cables, the Tunisian collective blog Nawaat launched theTunileaks site and published 17 US embassy cables in which President Ben Ali’s extended family was “often cited as the nexus of Tunisian corruption“. Following Nawaat, the website of Beirut-based al-Akhbar newspaper published dozens of cables from several Arab countries, and the site was forced to shut down following a hack and sophisticated DDoS attack. What was the impact of the release of these diplomatic cables, as well as other subsequent document leaks, on the Arab Spring? Was Wikileaks an ignitor of protest movements regionally and elsewhere as claimed by its video “What Does it Cost to Change the World?

With two panelists from Wikileaks partners, Tunileaks and al-Akhbar, the panel will discuss the impact of the cables on the Arab spring and shed some light on the events and momentum prior to the spark of the Arab revolution.

5:30 – 5:45 – Closing Discussion


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More resources on Libya..

For more info on what`s going in Libya and more translated material coming from the country and the Region on this topic, I`d like to point you to the Global Voices updates and to the Meedan live translation platform. Thanks to them, I`ve also came to know these websites which I recommend to visit for more in-depth views into Libya: http://www.jeel-libya.net/ , http://www.libya-alyoum.com/news/index.php, http://www.quryna.com/.

Tales of ordinary madness in Tunisian web

In the past few days my Twitter feed was constantly blinking concerning the 22th of May global protest that Tunisian activists were trying to organize all over the world against government Internet filtering. Slim Amadou, a prominent Tunisian blogger, was reported missing for some days and everybody on Twitter was asking through tons of retweets “have you heard from him?”. Today Sami Ben Gharbeia, director of advocacy at Global Voices, posted a link with the answer (read here on the C.R.I.M.E report). Unbelievable, or just a tale of ordinary madness from the country that in 2005 hosted the World Summit on the Information Society?

Slim’s Shady Detention

Error 404Slim Amamou’s mistake was to request a permit for a rally in Tunis. The local cyber activist joined with several colleagues to plan a peaceful demonstration against online censorship, part of a May 22 worldwide day against government Internet filtering in Tunisia. But as Slim filed the official paperwork, police swooped in, detaining him and demanding he record a video asking people not to attend the demo.

Tunisia was the first Arab country to introduce Internet access and paradoxically remains a trailblazer – only now with world-class Internet censorship. The May 22 global protest targeted “Ammar 404,” the imaginary censor Tunisians have created whose name is a pun on the “Error 404” message displayed when trying to access censored content. Tunisians living abroad took to the street to protest in front of their country’s embassies and consulates in Bonn, New York, and Paris.

But in Tunis, authorities would allow no such demonstration. During Slim’s lengthy detention (along with fellow activist Yassine Ayari) he had to record a ” public service announcement” urging protestors to stay home. He was also forced to sign a document stating he “understood that his call for a demonstration is wrong.” The next day, a phalanx of Tunisian police gathered outside the Technology and Communications Ministry, which runs the country’s Internet firewall.

Still, young Tunisian organized flashmobs in Tunis cafes wearing white t-shirts to show their defiance to the government ban. And Slim, despite it all, refuses to be silenced. In fact, he maintains a steady stream of commentary via his Twitter feed, appropriately named “Slim404.”

Second Arab Bloggers meeting over

The Second Arab Bloggers meeting is just over here in Beirut. It has been an incredible opportunity to meet up and discuss with a bunch of very interesting folks coming from Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Egypt,Qatar, Sudan, etc.
We have run into a full week of presentations, workshops, talks and even games and I’ve learned so much from countries that I’ve never expected to be so active on the web 2.0 field.
Bloggers, activists, techno-enthusiasts, hackers, creative people: an incredible variety of mix in terms of backgrounds, skills and contexts but at the same time each of them with more than one interesting project/story to tell.
I’m grateful to Sami Ben Gharbia and the Global Voices team to have put together such a worndeful group people, and to Doreen, Alia, Heba, Corinne and the Heinrich Boll Foundation for having made this thing possible – it was not easy to organise such a meeting, and not only in terms of fundraising-.
It was the first time for me to attend a truly Panarab grassroot meeting and to be able to listen to it in its original language. I realised the power of this language, Arabic, that -even if spoken in so many different accents and local varieties- can link together people coming from 22 countries and let them share ideas and projects.
It’s true that Classical Arabic -or “fus7ha”- is still quite a “cold” language, that is perceived to be distant from people daylife and certainly not suitable for a tech meeting. But I’ve a little hope after this meeting, that a certain kind of “medium or standard dialect” (“3ammieh”) can be developed by each Arab country in order to be understood by the others.
Egyptian is widely understood by everybody not because it is easy (!) but because it has been “the” language of mass communication in the Arab world for many years. And now Syrian and Lebanese are widely understood because of TV.
I think that, despite they are harder to understand, even Tunisian and other North-African dialects could be more popular thru media in the future. They just have to be used, instead of using French (!). I believe that the beautiful Arabic language should be enhanced thru new digital media, but in its local lively versions -together with the Classical “official” one-. I hope that meetings like this could push people to speak more Arabic, learn more Arabic and produce more content in Arabic. Definitely it was like that for me!
And, again, a special thanks to Sami for having put such a network of people together.
I do believe “Panarabism” can happen only this way, thru this grassroots, bottom-up movements.
Shukran kteer wa ila liqa’, inshallah..

more pics are available thanks to Jillian C. York here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jilliancyork/sets/72157622874966605/?page=3

Discussing Wikipedia in Damascus

For those of you who are in Damascus, Syria, tomorrow 5th of may, there is a very interesting event happening at 4pm in Al Asad Library organised by Syrian Computer Society to discuss about the famous Wikipedia.

sham

Wikipedia is the largest online encyclopedia but the pages written in the Arabic language are still very poor in numbers. Lots of efforts have yet to be done within the Arab community of Wikipedia contributors.

One of the major problem till now was the fact that many of them prefer writing articles on the Wikipedia English, in order to communicate with other communities more directly (and, let’s admit it, also because writing in Classical Arabic is not the easiest thing to do, not even for native speakers).

Things got even more complicated when Egyptian Wikipedia appeared under the name of  Wikipedia Masri, written in the Egyptian dialect. Last december, this move has generated lots of discussions in the Egyptian and in the Arab blogosphere,  as reported by Global Voices.

Is it the opening of local Wikipedia “versions” in local Arabic dialects the right solution for the lack of Arabic content on the web?

Speaking about Al Jazeera and the eternal controversy on the channel..

..here you are a link to the  Global Voices online, talking about some Moroccans praising Al Jazeera for having hosted , during an episode of Ahmad Mansour‘s “Shahidun ala Asser”, an interview with former  political prisoner Ahmad el Marzouki speaking about secret prisons in Morocco…have a look: http://allal-cinemagoer.blogspot.com/2009/04/powerful-image-through-al-jazeera.html