The Ethics of Online Video: Questions on Dignity, Re-Victimization, Consent, and Security

Regions: Global

Tags: dignity, ethics, informed consent, online, remixing, risks, safety, security, video

This past June, my colleague Sameer Padania and I were part of a panel at the Open Video Conference in New York City on ‘Human Rights, Indigenous Media and Open Video.'  We used the opportunity to launch what will be a continuing effort by WITNESS to engage with the human rights issues around dignity, re-victimization, consent and security raised by contemporary online video.

Here's the video we used for the WITNESS presentation at the conference.  Watch and tell us what you think - what should WITNESS (and others) be doing in this area?

 


Over the coming months, look out for many more perspectives and in-depth looks at some of these issues on the Hub.  My colleague Priscila Néri's post on the recent footage of Neda Agha-Soltan in Iran is a thought-provoking place to start: 'Iran Protests: A Woman Dies on Camera - to post or not to post?'

WITNESS was created over fifteen years ago coming out of the Rodney King incident asking this question: what if every human rights worker had a camera in their hand? Now, it is every citizen who has a camera - and it is participants, witnesses and perpetrators who are filming.  Use of video, particularly mobile video, has publicized and documented many emerging human rights struggle from Rangoon to Tehran. Online there is an abundance of peer-produced content 'for the good.'

However, despite the growing online circulation of images of human rights violations, victims and survivors, there is limited discussion of related safety, consent and ethical concerns. At the heart of human rights is the idea of respect for the dignity, worth and integrity of every person. We have an ethical responsibility as witnesses to violations to share the suffering of others in a manner that empathizes with - rather than re-violates - the victim.

From a human rights perspective, new issues around consent, representation and direct re-victimization and retaliation emerge in an open and networked online environment of reworking, remixing and re-circulating video and other imagery.

So how do we go about "incorporating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights" into the "terms of service" of online video? (an idea first suggested by Dan McQuillan)  How do we introduce ideas around consent and human dignity into the broader culture?


This discussion needs to happen at a technological level (how do we build these concepts into platforms and technology, as we have tried to do with the Hub), and it is also a conversation about skills, media literacy and cultural norms.

We need your help to consider how to move this conversation forward - please contribute your thoughts, questions, and ideas in the comments field below.


Comments

Policies developed by media activists working in adult homes

Our CIAD Media Team is made up of residents of adult homes in New York City, many with histories of mental illness. We work in a hostile environment with people who are extremely vulnerable; many do not welcome being on camera, either because they fear retaliation, or because they don't want any public exposure. These are the policies we have evolved over the past six years:
* We always defer to the comfort-level of each resident, asking people to do ONLY what they are comfortable doing. We solicit residents' feelings about being videotaped before we go ahead with the shoot, and we try to respect and accommodate any degree of discomfort. If we have any doubt about a person's comfort level, or their understanding of what they are getting into, we either don't shoot them at all, or don't use the footage.
*Our major on-camera roles are filled only by experienced leaders whose inner strength is well-tested, and who are well-connected to outside advocates--and therefore difficult to victimize.
*When we shoot exteriors of adult homes, we shoot from sufficiently far away that no residents or bystanders can be recognized.
*We don't use legal release forms as a carte blanche. We allow participants to change their minds at any point in the process, including after we have published our videos in DVD form or on the web. We accord participants this extra security because we recognize that many adult home residents cycle through different mental states. On one occasion, we re-edited a video to take a resident out of a video.
*Our videos are truly by residents, about residents and for residents. Resident members of CIAD's Policy Committee decide which videos to shoot, perform all on-camera roles, review the rough cuts of the videos, and approve use of the videos.
We are proud of the fact that over the past six years, in producing 20 videos, we have brought great benefit, and not caused any injury, to the residents whose lives we have touched.


American University Center for Social Media Report - Doc Ethics

A new report from the Center for Social Media also discusses these issues for US Filmmakers:

http://www.centerforsocialmedia.org/resources/publications/honest_truths...

Very interesting and important part of this conversation.


Introducing Human Rights Into Broader Culture

I AM A COMMUNITY ORGANIZER AND I FEEL THAT ORGANIZING FOR PEACE AND HUMAN RIGHTS IS THE ANSWER. THE PROBLEM OF VIDEO BEING MANIPULATED IS A PROBLEM AND FRANKLY, THE REAL PROBLEM IS INFLUENCING THOSE WHO ARE VIOLENT THEMSELVES TO STOP. vIOLENCE IS VIEWED AS POWER IN MANY CULTURES. oBVIOUSLY WAR HAS NOT WORKED, OR WE WOULD NO LONGER HAVE WAR WITH ALL THE WARS FOUGHT. tHE OPPRESSED NEED A COMMON VOICE, A UNITED VOICE. i FEEL THAT COMBINING THE ARTS, MUSIC IN PARTICULAR AND THE CONCEPT OF GLONAL PEACE AND HUMAN RIGHTS AS AN ORGANIZED OBJECTIVE MAY HELP/ mUSIC SET TO IMAGRY. mUSIC FROM THE INFLUENTIAL, THOSE WHO ARE NOT AFRAID TO BE POLITICAL. tHE QUESTION NEEDS TO BE ASKED, WHY ARE WE AS A GLOBAL COMMUNITY NOT ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS AND WHY ARE WE NOT SCREAMING ABOUT IT. lOOK AT THE CAMPAIGN FOR GREENING UP THE ECONOMY. ALL IT REALLY TOOK WAS ONE FILM, AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, AND WITHIN A COUPLE OF YEARS, ALL YOU SEE IS GREEN THINKING. oNE COULD INFLUENCE THE SAME WAY WITH PEACE AND HUMAN RIGHTS USING THE ARTS. EXAMPLE, USING BOB MARLEY'S REDEMPTION SONG TO ADVERTISING OR A CAMPAIGN AGAINST HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, WHILE EDUCATING WITH IMAGRY AND STATISTICS. I CAN ASSURE YOU THAT MOST PEOPLE ARE NOT EDUCATED CONCERNING HIUMAN RIGHTS. iN THE uNITED STATES,VIOLENCE IS NORMALIZED AND FOR THOSE WHO COMMIT IT, IT IS A FORM OF POWER. TAKE THAT POWER AWAY. EDUCATE, EDUCATE. ASK CHILDREN THE QUESTION, WHAT DOES PEACE LOOK LIKE? LET THE ARTIST CREATE THAT IMAGE. A CHILDREN'S CAMPAIGN USING IMAGES CREATED TO SHOW HOW A CHILD IMAGINES PEACE SET TO MUSIC MAY ALSO BE VERY EFFECTIVE. hOPE YOU FIND SOME OF THESE IDEAS USEFUL. PLEASE FEEL FREE TO CONTACT ME IF YOU LIKE.