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Internet Freedom in the Arab World



ROLE
Programmer, Researcher, Visual Designer, UI/UX Design

SKILLS
Frontend Development, p5.js, Data Visualization, Adobe Illustrator

DATE
December 2015

DESCRIPTION

In this data visualization project, I designed and developed an interactive map tracking individuals in the Arab world who had been detained, prosecuted, or harassed by their governments in 2015 because of their online activity. 

See the visualization here.


According to Freedom House’s 2015 Freedom on the Net Report, there was a spike in public floggings of liberal bloggers, life sentences for online critics, and beheadings of internet-based journalists in the Middle East in 2015.

The data for this project came from several sources. First, I combed through the data collected by the Committee to Protect Journalists in its 2015 report on jailed journalists. Second, I consulted Global Voices’ project Digital Citizen, a biweekly review of human rights in the Arab world. For every individual, I found at least one other piece of journalism online confirming the incident. The result was a long list of individuals who had been detained, prosecuted, physically harassed, or killed by their government between December 2014 – December 2015. 



With this project, I wanted to explore the factors driving the boost in imprisonments and detainments for online behavior. Specifically, I was interested in how the legal climate and attitudes towards the internet in each of these countries contributes to the problem.

The adoption of sweeping cybersecurity and anti-terrorism laws in 2015 has been cited as one of the major causes of increased imprisonments. Mauritania proposed two draft laws on cybercrime and the information economy that punish “insults” against the government with up to seven years in jail. Tunisia passed a counter-terrorism law that arbitrarily restricts freedom of expression. A new freedom of information act was passed in Sudan that legalizes government censorship. In 2015 Egypt passed a number of cybercrime and anti-terrorism laws that criminalize broad online offenses, allowing the government to crack down on human rights activists. The Jordanian government broadened its legal definition of “terrorism” to include critics who “disturb its relations with a foreign state.” Kuwait adopted a controversial anti-terrorism law. Other countries in the region continue to enforce their cybercrime and anti-terror laws, including the U.A.E., which has been know to give the death penalty for defamation charges.

I used Adobe Illustrator to design the map and then developed the visualization in JavaScript, using p5.js.
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