Digital self-protection and access to information in repressive environments: experiences from Venezuela

Laura Vidal

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How are Venezuelans accessing information and keeping themselves safe online in a deeply censored landscape? From journalists hopping on buses to digital security workshops on YouTube, we explore how people are learning to protect themselves online and reliable information flowing in spite of a complex system aimed to keep them in the dark.

In the last 15 years, civic space and the information landscape in Venezuela has shrunk dramatically. Independent organizations are finding increasingly hard to keep track of the many ways the state is closing down radio stations, harassing newspapers and journalists, and keeping the internet fairly limited in speed and access while pushing efforts to surveil their citizens. In the middle of this tense environment, a group of journalists and digital security experts have found different ways to dodge the different limitations and not only keep reliable information flowing as much as possible, but help others understand and learn the many ways they can do so themselves.

This session aims to explore a perspective of the Venezuelan political conflict that has been fairly invisible in international mainstream media, as well as some of the strategies civic society and other groups of citizens are putting in place. We will be crossing and communicating findings from local and international organizations, as well as direct testimonies from some of the activists and journalists behind these stories. Exploring these experiences will translate in learning experiences regarding digital security and political participation, not only in repressive environments but also in the complexity of democracies. In the end, this session will tell the story of an ongoing effort to build collective counter-power through technology and collaboration, taking place online and off, inside of the country and across borders.    

A photo of Laura Vidal
Researcher / Communicator