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Human Rights Advocacy: Does Social Help or Hurt?

Human Rights Advocacy: Does Social Help or Hurt?
Human Rights Advocacy: Does Social Help or Hurt?

As we reflect on this past Human Rights Day, consider taking a moment to count your blessings – they’re not universal. 

Despite having adopted a Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the UN continues to track and combat human rights violations across the globe; “more than 300,000 children under the age of 18 are being exploited as child soldiers” in conflicts that or not their own, approximately 27 million people are victims of human trafficking, and, “121 million children and adolescents have never had the chance to attend school, or have been forced to drop out” (World Economic Forum, 2021). 

Admittedly, lowering and abolishing these numbers entirely may seem overwhelming or impossible – what can we really do?

As it turns out, human rights groups, like Amnesty International, are turning to social media for help; “the increasing availability of mobile phones and internet access – especially in urban centers – has provided a critical conduit for activists, human rights defenders, civil society and journalists to monitor events, document human rights abuses and war crimes as they occur, and mobilize for justice and accountability” (Amnesty International, August 30, 2021). 

In this way, you can consider social media to be a public catalog of injustices, especially human rights violations – this is crucial to informing international regulations and ultimately protecting universal human rights. 

It is important to note that social media platforms – while they’re a wealth of information – have a duty to censor content that “unlawfully incites or promotes violence” (Amnesty International, August 30, 2021). As you can see, there is a fine line between providing evidence of human rights violations and violating a social media platform’s community guidelines. 

How do we bridge this gap? 

UN Women conducted a 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence on Human Rights Day – December 10th – using #orangetheworld to spread the message of standing against injustice, especially towards women and children. Tens of thousands of social media users participated by sharing their own experiences with gender-based violence or showcasing support for the cause to end human rights violations. 

Combatting the violation of universal human rights will take the efforts of both social media users and platforms. While honoring their commitments to create a safer space, social media platforms should also dedicate themselves to preserving deleted or archived posts that violate community guidelines – they may be hard-hitting evidence of human rights violations that can be weaponized in trial to bring justice to victims. Meanwhile, users should get involved in social media movements like #orangetheworld and flag content they deem evidential to human rights causes. 

Just because Human Rights Day has passed doesn’t mean activist groups like Amnesty International don’t still need your help – consider donating today. 



References: 

10 things to know about human rights. (n.d.). World Economic Forum. Retrieved December 13, 2021, from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/12/10-things-to-know-about-human-rights/
 
Human Rights Groups Call on Social Media Platforms to Preserve Evidence of Potential Human Rights Abuses in Afghanistan. (n.d.). Amnesty International USA. Retrieved December 13, 2021, from https://www.amnestyusa.org/press-releases/human-rights-groups-call-on-social-media-platforms-to-preserve-evidence-of-potential-human-rights-abuses-in-afghanistan/
 
The sheroes of human rights. (n.d.). UN Women. Retrieved December 13, 2021, from https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2018/12/compilation-human-rights-day
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