Risk and the Pluralism of Digital Human Rights Fact-Finding and Advocacy (2018) 

In this chapter, I argue that, while the rise of ICTs has certainly created new opportunities, it has also created new risk – or negative outcomes – for human rights practitioners. This risk is silencing, and unequally so.  

The chapter begins by outlining how risk is entwined with communication in the digital age. Rather than considering risk in isolation, we can think of it as manifesting via “risk assemblages,” or dynamic combinations of actors, technologies, contexts, resources, and risk perceptions (Lupton, 2016).  

I detail selected types of risk for human rights communication resulting from new combinations of actors and technologies involved in digital fact-finding and advocacy.  

For fact-finding, these include the risk of surveillance, which has consequences for participants’ physical security, and the risk of deception, which has consequences for their reputational integrity. For advocacy, these include the risk of mistakes, which can in turn risk reputational integrity, and the risk of miscalculations, which can jeopardize precious resources.  

I explain how this materialized risk combines with risk perceptions to create a silencing double bind. Human rights practitioners may be silenced if they don’t know about risk – and they may silence themselves if they do. This silencing effect is not universal, however, but disproportionately affects human rights practitioners situated in more precarious contexts and with less access to resources, with ensuing consequence for the pluralism of human rights reporting.  

The chapter finishes by outlining four ways of loosening the risk double bind: educational, technological, reflexive, and discursive approaches to working with risk.