Women at the forefront of digital activism

The role of women spearheading digital activism across the world was the subject of discussion at the Frontline Club on Monday 22nd January.

It was hosted by none other than actor turned rights campaigner Pamela Anderson. She held the conversation with Renata Avila, a Guatemalan human rights lawyer and digital rights expert; Sarah Harrison, a renowned British journalist and human rights defender and Angela Richter, an acclaimed Croatian-German theatre director, activist and author.

The evening started by Anderson’s first question which revolved around the role of WikiLeaks in internet activism.

Avila began by taking a critical view of fellow internet activist with regard to this. She said: “In 2010 I was here tackling the avalanche of attack which WikiLeaks was experiencing…if only that community had come strongly against private censorship but they shied away from the principles of freedom of press.  We will not be in this mess that we are today…the big social media companies were not that big at the time but now they have become practically ministries of truth.”

She also went on to highlight that WikiLeaks unveiled more than just the documents. In her view, it also exposed the role of the Silicon Valley politics.

“It showed the true colours of many groups and it unveiled the relationship between governments and Silicon Valley as well as between governments and journalists even,” she summarised without hesitation.

Following on from this Anderson asked the panel about the role of the internet in changing the course of contemporary politics.

To this, Harrison replied: “Everything is now concentrated into just a few hands…and this is what we are exporting around the world. Facebook Zero for example is going into Africa…a horrific example of the way the controlling system, which we are trying to fight in the West, are being solidified and exported as modus operandi to other places in the world.”

For Richter who was available through a video link, the question of digital monopolies was the critical one.

She said: “There is a lot of manipulation and power monopolies which are concentrated in very few hands…I refer to Google as, we don’t have governments but have Googlements.”

“Just some years ago I was thinking about the diversity of the internet…now it is overwhelming, with fake news as a huge problem. It is an inflammatory term, strategically used. We have a lot of work to do to change the course,” she concluded.

In an answer to a question from the audience on the role of whistleblowers Harrison thought it was important to make the distinction between sources particularly in the national security realm.

She said: “There is a lot of information out there. But there is a difference between those who come forward with actual documents … and those who say ‘anonymous sources told me’. The later you can’t verify and this is dangerous and an easy trap to fall into.”



The evening ended with a round of applause from the audience for the panel and for what turned out to be Anderson’s one of very first few attempts at hosting such debates. They also applauded Richter for her contribution over the video link and later queued for the signing by their book, Women, Whistleblowing, WikiLeaks by Avila and Harrison.

Members of the audience also had a further chance to talk to the panel over drinks and dinner in the Members Room and The Frontline Restaurant situated on the lower floors of the club.

To watch a summary of the talk click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vyWDD4DgnS0