In parts of the world, reading this is a crime. Censorship, imprisoning dissidents, surveillance, cracking down on a free press, intimidating people critical of the government — these are just some of the tactics used by oppressive governments to limit free expression.
Only 13% of the world enjoys a free press. At least two-thirds of the world’s internet is censored. And global democratic rights have experienced a decade of decline. But where we see repressive governments restricting access to information or communication, we see activists’ innovative uses of technology to communicate securely, share news, or build political movements.
We partnered with VICE News to create BLACKOUT, a documentary series about the global struggle for free expression and the role technology plays. Each episode focuses on people who are demanding more rights in a repressive country.
The first episode of BLACKOUT takes us to Pakistan, where anti-gay laws and a culture hostile to LGBT communities have forced LGBT youth underground.
The second heads to Venezuela, where journalists are turning to online platforms after facing rejection by mainstream media; Thailand, where human rights activists are fighting a cyber war for the right to offend the king; and Belarus, Europe’s last dictatorship, where journalists and artists face intimidation and imprisonment.
In the last episode we visit Eritrea, arguably the least free and most censored country in the world — often called “Africa’s North Korea” — where activists use pirate radio and hidden messages to counter the government’s brutal oppression.
The irony is not lost on us that the people who would feel perhaps the most empowered viewing the content cannot, because both VICE and YouTube are blocked in many countries. That’s why we seeded a tool called uProxy, which allows people to share their internet with someone in a repressive society. Read more about it here and try uProxy for yourself.
BLACKOUT tells the story of people who, when faced with oppression and brutality, find ways to fight back. Sometimes it’s a matter of forming a political movement or joining a protest or defying a powerful government. Sometimes fighting back is the simple act of telling the truth.