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Guides on Documenting During Internet Shutdown

Image Credit - Witness

Internet shutdowns have become a growing phenomenon in many countries around the world. There can be different reasons for the disruptions — it can be political, commercial, cultural, or simply be due to technical problems.

In recent times, Internet shutdowns have increasingly been used by authorities during crisis moments to deal with protests or defuse political tensions.

They justify these tactics as a method to prevent the spread of misinformation and disinformation, as well as to diffuse the possibility of violence.

This Global Voices post discusses different forms of Internet Shutdown or disruptions: it can be platform-specific blocking, blanket Internet shutdown, or just bandwidth throttling. In almost all of the cases, the users remain on the receiving end.

Yvonne Ng at the Witness blog writes:

“All of these types of shutdowns are intended to disrupt the ability to communicate information and expose violations in real-time. [..]

Documenting human rights violations is as important as ever during an internet shutdown. Even if information cannot be shared in the moment, documentation can be a way to preserve voices that authorities are trying to silence, and to secure evidence of abuses that can be used to demand accountability later on.”

The work of activists becomes challenging during the shutdowns and, based on experience, capturing and preserving videos during a shutdown and safely sharing them offline is very important.

Witness has published a series of blog posts with resources and tips based on learnings from activists on how to document and film during Internet shutdowns. The guides have been written with Android devices in mind, but the tips can be applied to iPhones as well.

Image Credit Witness

“All personally identifiable information should be removed from the device used in documentation.”

1) Setting up a phone for offline documentation:

This part written by Arul Prakkash refers to preparing a phone for offline filming. The steps include resetting the phone and going through basic security steps like updating software, using strong password and encryption. Useful apps need to be installed afterwards and all personally identifiable information should be removed from the device.

Read the rest of the guide here.

2) Capturing Videos for documentation:

This guide talks about which specific app for documentation is the most appropriate depending on the situation, the needs, and the risks. Metadata are important evidence so the apps used should be able to capture the required metadata, even offline.

Read the rest here.

Image Credit Witness

3) Safeguarding Videos During Internet shutdown:

This guide helps maintain videos captured during an Internet shutdown to maximise its verifiability and usability as documentation later on. A good trick is to include details in the video to later identify the time and place, like unique landmarks, street signs, storefronts, license plates, newspaper front pages, etc.

Read the guide here.

4) Keep a backup of the video:

The rule of thumb is to always create and preserve a backup of important videos. Data can be accidentally deleted, memory cards can be corrupted, and phones can be confiscated. This guide provides information on how you can securely back up your video from your phone to another card/device during an Internet shutdown.

Image Credit Witness

5) File Sharing and Communication During an Internet Shutdown:

To share or transfer files from your phone to another nearby device, you do not need an Internet connection. You can use Bluetooth, Wifi Direct, or Near Field Communication (NFC) and other Apps like Briar and Bridgify during an Internet Shutdown. This guide narrates those.

These tips and guides will certainly help activists around the world to successfully defend people’s right to record, as well as freedom of expression, information, and assembly.

About the Author

Rezwan Islam has long experience in citizen and social media. For over 15 years, he has been writing for local and international citizen media sites/blogs.