MENA: Learning about Digital Safety, Online

Since the start of the Arab Spring, many regimes realized that in order to suppress an uprising they need to control, filter or manipulate the Internet in order to minimize its impact. Thus, netizens, activists and journalists in the MENA region – though able to express themselves more loudly than before – are also now, more than ever, the victims of government crackdowns on online communication and activities. There is an increasing need for activists to protect their identities, data, and network, while pursuing the struggle for a democratic, corruption-free Arab world.

A new platform has recently been launched to providing resources through Arabic-language workshops online and in Arabic: the Cyber Arabs Online Academy.

The home page of the Cyber Arabs Online Academy

The home page of the Cyber Arabs Online Academy

“This is unique project because activists and netizens can participate in online classes through which seasoned experts will provide quality information on digital security issues,” said Mariwan Hama during an in-person interview. Hama is the project manager at the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), the supporters of the Online Academy. “They don’t have to leave their homes or their countries, all classes are taught in Arabic and are open for everyone, and they are free of charge.”

The recently launched Online Academy website is part of the larger Cyber Arabs project, which has the advantage of being entirely in Arabic. They hope to offer advice on digital security, advocacy and cyber activism, including:

In-person trainings: for activists to learn about digital security threats and techniques to limit the risks they take in their activities;

Online classes: to help activists can learn the basics of data, network, online and mobile security;

Training of trainers: for those activists who are looking to teach others in their communtiies;

Online resources: available for the wider public.

“It is an exciting project and we are looking forward to doing our best to address the digital security challenges that activists and netizens face in the region,” said Hama. “And the response has been phenomenal. We just announced our first online workshop and in just a few days had more than 100 people signing up for the classes.”

IWPR supports those at the frontlines of conflict and crisis around the world, with a focus on engaging with civil society and governments to ensure that information achieves impact.

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