Documenting Human Rights Violations in Challenging Environments

On social media sites, users discuss all sorts of topics including what they have read, heard from friends, and observed with their own eyes. Social media sites can be a great tool for collecting information on human rights violations and other occurrences. They also provide a more democratic platform than traditional media to discuss issues. The former allows for a number of simultaneous voices, while the latter usually focuses on one story at a time. In this lesson, we will look at two of the biggest social media sites – Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook: A Useful Tool or a Potential Risk?

While you can use Facebook to stay in touch with friends and discuss the latest movies and music online, it can also be a useful tool for collecting first and second-hand information on social and political topics. In this capacity, Facebook’s strengths are that it allows you to:

  • Use comments posted by friends and other users to do background research on a topic;
  • Develop contacts that allow you to monitor specific issues or places, even if you cannot be there yourself; and,
  • Join Facebook groups related to the issues that you want to monitor.

For example, check out the Facebook page of Nabz-Iran. This page gives you information about human rights abuses in Iran. Users can also share news, events, eyewitness accounts, opinions, and other information about civil and political rights, women right, and personal rights.

Click “next” to see the some of the downsides of using Facebook and its role during the 2009 elections.