Analysis & Opinions

You Purged Racists From Your Website? Great, Now Get to Work
Joan Donovan. 7/1/2020. “You Purged Racists From Your Website? Great, Now Get to Work.” Wired. See full text.Abstract
Joan Donovan explains that the covid-19 infodemic has taught social media giants an important lesson: they must take action to control the content on their sites. 

For those who follow the politics of platforms, Monday’s great expulsion of malicious content creators was better late than never. For far too long, a very small contingent of extremely hateful content creators have used Silicon Valley’s love of the First Amendment to control the narrative on commercial content moderation. By labeling every effort to control their speech as “censorship,” these individuals and groups managed to create cover for their use of death threats, harassment, and other incitements to violence to silence opposition. For a long time, it has worked. Until now. In what looks like a coordinated purge by Twitch, Reddit, and YouTube, the reckoning is here for those who use racism and misogyny to gain attention and make money on social media.

Read the full article.

Attacks on the Press Track a Democratic Backslide
Sushma Raman. 6/29/2020. “Attacks on the Press Track a Democratic Backslide.” Foreign Policy . See full text. Abstract
According to Sushma Raman, freedom of press is eroding around the world - including in democratic countries.

The recent conviction of the journalist Maria Ressa in the Philippines for “cyber libel” has brought into sharp relief the global deterioration of press freedom. Across the world, fundamental freedoms of association, expression, and assembly are under threat. A recent report from Civicus found that twice as many people live under repression today as a year ago. Although much of that is due to diminishing freedoms in countries whose governments have long been known for their heavy hands, an increasing number of attacks on the media have come in places where press freedom was once enshrined.

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Reimagining Reality: Human Rights and Immersive Technology
Brittan Heller. 6/12/2020. “Reimagining Reality: Human Rights and Immersive Technology.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series, 2020-008. See full text.Abstract

This paper explores the human rights implications of emergent technology, and focuses on virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and immersive technologies. Because of the psychological and physiological aspects of immersive technologies, and the potential for a new invasive class of privacy-related harms, she argues that content creators, hardware producers, and lawmakers should take increased caution to protect users. This will help protect the nascent industry in a changing legal landscape and help ensure that the beneficial uses of this powerful technology outweigh the potential misuses.

In the paper, Heller first reviews the technology and terminology around immersive technologies to explain how they work, how a user’s body and mind are impacted by the hardware, and what social role these technologies can play for communities. Next she describes some of the unique challenges for immersive media, from user safety to misalignment with current biometrics laws. She introduces a new concept, biometric psychography, to explain how the potential for privacy-related harms is different in immersive technologies, due to the ability to connect your identity to your innermost thoughts, wants, and desires. Finally, she describe foreseeable developments in the immersive industry, with an eye toward identifying and mitigating future human rights challenges. The paper concludes with five recommendations for actions that the industry and lawmakers can take now, as the industry is still emerging, to build human rights into its DNA.

The Floyd Protests Are the Broadest in U.S. History — and Are Spreading to White, Small-Town America
Lara Putnam, Erica Chenoweth, and Jeremy Pressman. 6/6/2020. “The Floyd Protests Are the Broadest in U.S. History — and Are Spreading to White, Small-Town America.” Washington Post. See full version.Abstract
Erica Chenoweth discusses the Floyd protests and its impact on law, social policies, and the 2020 elections.

Across the country, people are protesting the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and demanding action against police violence and systemic racism. National media focuses on the big demonstrations and protest policing in major cities, but they have not picked up on a different phenomenon that may have major long-term consequences for politics. Protests over racism and #BlackLivesMatter are spreading across the country — including in small towns with deeply conservative politics.

Examining the Ethics of Immunity Certificates
Carr Center. 6/1/2020. “Examining the Ethics of Immunity Certificates.” Carr Center Covid-19 Discussion Paper Series, 05. Read full text.Abstract

Carr Center faculty and fellows examine the human rights implications and legal ramifications of introducing widespread immunity passports. In this latest issue, hear from Mark Latonero, Technology and Human Rights Fellow at the Carr Center and Research Lead at Data & Society, Elizabeth Renieris, a Technology and Human Rights Fellow at the Carr Center and founder of hackylawyER, and Mathias Risse, Faculty Director at the Carr Center.  

Read their discussion here. 

George Floyd and the History of Police Brutality in America
Kadijatou Diallo and John Shattuck. 6/1/2020. “George Floyd and the History of Police Brutality in America.” Boston Globe. See full text.Abstract
Kadijatou Diallo and John Shattuck discuss the history of racist policing and violence against African Americans in the U.S.


The horrific death, captured on video, of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck, spotlights the longstanding crisis of racism in policing.

To understand the protests that have erupted across the United States, one needs to understand the deeply troubled history of policing and race. Police brutality, racial discrimination, and violence against minorities are intertwined and rooted throughout US history. Technology has made it possible for the level and extent of the problem finally to be publicly documented. The anger expressed in the wake of Floyd’s killing reflects the searing reality that Black people in the United States continue to be dehumanized and treated unjustly.



Harvard University Human Rights Centers Condemn Recent Police Violence in the United States

May 29, 2020

The Carr Center, Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice, Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, FXB Center, Hutchins Center, and International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School denounce the vicious murder of George Floyd and other recent acts of racism in the U.S. ... Read more about Harvard University Human Rights Centers Condemn Recent Police Violence in the United States

Media Coverage Has Blown Anti-Lockdown Protests out of Proportion
Erica Chenoweth, Lara Putnam, Tommy Leung, Jeremy Pressman, and Nathan Perkins. 5/10/2020. “Media Coverage Has Blown Anti-Lockdown Protests out of Proportion.” Vox. See full text.Abstract
Erica Chenoweth explains that anti-lockdown protests are smaller than portrayed, but the media is amplifying their message.

In the last few weeks, protests against state lockdowns and social distancing measures have seized national headlines. The wall-to-wall coverage might give the impression that what we’re seeing is a powerful grassroots movement in the making. But research we just conducted on protest attendance and media coverage shows something different: This massive media coverage has in fact been out of proportion.

A comprehensive look at the social distancing protests reveals that they have been small in terms of both the number of participants and locations. As one official in the administration of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) tweeted about a protest in Annapolis on April 20, “There were more media inquiries about this than there were participants.”

Read the full article.


The Urgent Need to Transfer Vulnerable Migrants from Europe’s Largest Migrant Hotspot
Jacqueline Bhabha and Vasileia Digidki. 4/24/2020. “The Urgent Need to Transfer Vulnerable Migrants from Europe’s Largest Migrant Hotspot.” The BMJ. See full text.Abstract
Humanitarian organizations are being denied entry to Moira, one of Europe's largest migrant camps. Jacqueline Bhabha addresses steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Lesvos, the small Greek island notorious as Europe’s primary landing point for forced migrants from Asia and Africa since 2015, confirmed its first COVID-19 related death on 30 March. Testing across the island quickly confirmed 10 cases among the local population, spreading fear of an uncontrollable outbreak in the densely and overcrowded migrant and refugee camps on the island.

We were expecting this news. One of us is a Lesvos native. Both of us have worked on its refugee crisis for several years. We are painfully familiar with the conditions facing the refugee and migrant population on the island, and the particular dangers they currently pose. Although Greece responded more promptly to the pandemic outbreak than other southern European countries, thus controlling the spread of the virus and achieving one of the lowest rates of infection in Europe, this commendable past conduct does not assure a safe and healthy future. In fact, despite the efforts, on 21 April it was revealed that a total of 150 asymptomatic refugees living in an accommodation facility in a small town in southern Greece tested positive for COVID-19.

Read the full article. 


The Global Pandemic Has Spawned New Forms of Activism – and They’re Flourishing
Erica Chenoweth, Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick, Jeremy Pressman, Felipe G Santos, and Jay Ulfelder. 4/20/2020. “The Global Pandemic Has Spawned New Forms of Activism – and They’re Flourishing.” The Guardian. See full text.Abstract
We’ve identified nearly 100 distinct methods of nonviolent action that include physical, virtual and hybrid actions
Erica Chenoweth and team have been collecting data on the various methods that people have used to express solidarity or adapted to press for change in the midst of this crisis. In just several weeks’ time, they've identified nearly 100 distinct methods of nonviolent action that include physical, virtual and hybrid actions – and they’re still counting. Far from condemning social movements to obsolescence, the pandemic – and governments’ responses to it – are spawning new tools, new strategies, and new motivation to push for change.

Read the full article from The Gaurdian.