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Speaking At The White House

Its an honor to be invited to speak at the White House . Its especially exciting to see an administration that understands the power of youth and works to pull in our voices.

The White House was pulling together 20 “awesome” youth leaders to discuss the future of international foreign aid. The conversation was between us, the head of USAID (United States Agency for International Development) Raj Shah, and the internet. It was broadcast live on the White House website, with a realtime conversation happening on Facebook and on Twitter, hashtag #USAIDyouth.

Killing Code Can Kill People

How do you effectively document human rights atrocities and not get caught? This is an extremely difficult problem, one that takes experience, ingenuity, and, often unfortunately, trial and error. The consequences can be devastating, but new technologies expand the options for creative people who are trying to make a difference in their societies to be able to do so and stay a few steps ahead of dictatorial regimes.

Unfortunately, software companies often act as mini dictatorships in their own right. Their code and their products are closed and their users ruled and attacked if they use the technology in an unexpected way. On the other hand, there are open source projects that hold democracy as a central tenant. Having opened their code to the public, they are transparent, participatory, and accountable.

Your Kid’s a Weiner

Watch where you point your finger. Your kid has probably sent or received a sext today.

The accusations that led to Anthony Weiner’s resigning were upsetting insofar as this was a teachable moment. Instead it became a media circus. Why not have a larger discussion about the serious issues surrounding privacy and technology? Develop a better understanding of how these issues can negatively impact private companies, our children, and political careers.

Learning From Japan’s Disaster

During the 2007 Virginia Tech campus shooting, students and witnesses desperately tried to send text messages to 911. Local dispatchers never received them because their systems only take voice calls. As technology rapidly changes, what lessons can be learned from tragic situations like the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan, and how can they be applied to prevent such devastating consequences?

Open UN: The Evolution of the Crowd panel

UN Global Pulse hosted a number of events during New York Social Media Week. I was glad to contribute on the Open UN: The Evolution of the Crowd panel.

Social Media to Prevent Hate Media

George Orwell wrote “History is written by the winners” and while this has been the case in many places, it has certainly not held true for Israel. After the war of independence established the state of Israel, it has continued to fight for legitimacy as a state.

Media has been central to framing this discussion. They have rightly outed human rights abuses as they’ve occurred, but often given heavy-handed and biased coverage that not only sours the debate, but encourages the promulgation of hate speech as the discussion norm. Most recently, this has been exemplified by an upcoming film by Benny Brunner, The Great Book Robbery.

Wikinomics of Leaks

The return on investment from open government data is starting to be shown by projects such as apps for democracy. What about the current WikiLeaks cablegate release of American diplomatic cables?

New tactics in Authoritarianism

Dictators are often ruthless, charismatic and extremely intelligent. They also have the resources to be extremely sophisticated. If not showy.

In modern times, it’s hard for dictators to operate in the ways that they used to. Their citizens having mobile phone cameras and an audience of the world, its just not as easy to have an undocumented massacre as it was 10 years ago.

Digital activism is more than marketing

In Micah White’s recent article about so-called “clicktivism,” he points out that the substance of activism has been replaced by reformist platitudes and marketing. There is a difference, however, between an educational campaign and straight marketing. While many people certainly work on both worlds simultaneously, there is often a tangible difference in the look, feel and substance of work done for a cause. At best, it seeks to stimulate debate and discussion amongst sympathetic parties, while looking to sustain itself without having to rely on government subsidies.

Leaking Peace

Modern warfare is not just violence, but also peacebuilding initiatives. One of the problems with releasing 90,000+ documents, as WikiLeaks did, and not reporting on the contents of those documents, as the media didn’t, is that the story of the war becomes skewed. Meaning that anyone trying to make sense of a war that has raged for nine years continues to be lost in its fog.