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Civic Freedom and the Pandemic

The COVID-19 Roundup

An alliance of CSOs and activists made recommendations to governments after reports prompted "serious concerns about the state of civic space."

The COVID-19 Roundup is a curated list for social sector practitioners and policymakers navigating the complexities of the global pandemic.

01. Civic Freedoms and the COVID-19 Pandemic

CIVICUS, a global alliance of CSOs and activists, has published information on key civic space issues that are emerging as nation states respond to the global pandemic. Last month, CIVICUS provided governments with recommendations after reports prompted “serious concerns about the state of civic space.” Published findings rate countries across a spectrum of civic freedom, from “open” to “closed,” and explore issues such as censorship and access to information, dissent and state retaliation, use of restrictive laws to counter ‘fake news,’ targeting of human rights defenders, and surveillance and violations of the right to privacy. Includes PDF version.

02. Virtual Training Series for Humanitarians

In May, UNOCHA’s Centre for Humanitarian Data launched a virtual series of trainings for humanitarians to develop their data skills on a host of topics, including data visualization. This follows a joint FAQ on responsible data in the COVID-19 response published in April, and results from a survey conducted in March to gauge priority areas for guidance on data in humanitarian action. Operational guidance, released later this year, will draw on the insights of hundreds of professionals from 78 countries.

03. Tech in the Time of Coronavirus

In April, data practitioners, policymakers, and advocates met to discuss Data Ethics, Power, and Privacy in COVID-19 Digital Response. This virtual Tech Salon was the third in a series of conversations exploring Tech in the Time of Coronavirus. Linda Raftree, who facilitates the series, sees the global pandemic as “an opportunity to make societal changes…We also need to remember that each data point is an individual person, and ensure that we treat data with the care that those persons deserve.” Video at the link.

04. Considering Gender and Gender Data in COVID-19 Response

Sarah Boyd of Data2X has shared a public list of resources on how gender data have influenced COVID-19 response. Topics include the psychological impacts of the lockdown, the increased risk of violence against women and girls, and the value of including more women experts in global health security decision-making. The list is one of many COVID-19 resources from the data community compiled by TReNDS, an initiative of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

05. Leading a Rapid Response to Nonprofit Leaders in Need

The Center for Nonprofit Management’s COVID-19 Resource Center features planning guides, remote work strategies, and a weekly virtual “working lunch” series where professionals meet to explore current practices in an interactive format. In response to thousands of nonprofit leaders turning to the organization for advice in recent weeks, CNM’s Regina Birdsell writes, “We have been inspired by how quickly the nonprofit community has been adapting to this current, chaotic chapter [and] honored to be able to help meet the needs of the sector.”

06. Countering Disinformation with the COMPROP Navigator

The Project on Computational Propaganda has launched an interactive resource for civil society groups as they respond to a rise in disinformation. The COMPROP navigator curates and connects individuals to information and services across five areas: the mechanics, elements and scope of disinformation; strategies for dealing with disinformation; avoiding junk news and maintaining public trust; cybersecurity for civil society; and online harassment and doxxing risks. Since 2012, the Project has looked at how algorithms, automation, and human curation are used to distribute misinformation over social media networks.

07. Safeguarding Technology Against “Would-Be Authoritarians”

In April, the American Civil Liberties Union announced a set of technology principles for policymakers, developers, and members of the public as they consider proposals for contact tracing solutions. Privacy by design is key for ensuring a public health benefit, but as ACLU Counsel Jennifer Stisa Granick writes, “There still need to be strict policies to mitigate against overreach and abuse… These policies, at a minimum, must be in place to ensure that any tracking app will be effective and will accord with civil liberties and human rights.”

08. RightsCon Community Resources

Every year, RightsCon convenes 1,000+ experts to address issues at the intersection of human rights and technology. Now, the RightsCon community is coming together to create a working list of resources covering digital security, COVID-19 preparedness, journalism, and self-care and well-being. Journalists can access tools for tracking government responses, collections of publications, fact checking resources, talking points, and more. Includes resources in Spanish.

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