#SXSW: How Activists Are Using Technology to Fight Dictators

Mar 15, 2017

By Meredith Bragg, Paul Detrick, and Austin Bragg

Reason TV published a video and article featuring HRF's panel, "The Real Information Revolution," at this year's SXSW, an annual interactive festival held in Austin, TX.

Watch the video here: http://reason.com/reasontv/2017/03/15/sxsw-how-activists-are-using-technology

From cowboy-hat-wearing robot arms to stress-detecting aromatherapy diffusers to futuristic audio speakers, everyone with a booth at South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive is trying to disrupt the status quo with technology.

But if you were looking for something truly disruptive at SXSW, look no further than a group of activists using tech to spread information to citizens oppressed by authoritarian regimes.

"The people out there they don't have satellites, they don't have internet, they have nothing," says Abdalaziz Alhamza who escaped Syria and co-founded Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently. "To be stuck with only ISIS propaganda, it will affect them."

Alhamza and dissidents from Eritrea, Afghanistan and Cuba were brought together by the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) for a panel discussion called "The Real Information Revolution." Reason caught up with the group at the HRF booth on the convention floor, centered around a large wall of Kim Jong Un faces with USB ports for mouths. Attendees were invited to donate USB drives into the display. The drives will later be smuggled into North Korea after being wiped and filled with films and information from the outside world.

"The struggle for freedom is one that used to be about who has more guns. Now information is a key component in making sure the government doesn't get away with winning the day with its narrative and pushing what governments tend to do, which is the use of fear to control the population," says Thor Halvorssen, president of HRF.

If you're interested in the campaign you can log onto flashdrivesforfreedom.org for more information about donating your drive.

Watch on Reason TV: http://reason.com/reasontv/2017/03/15/sxsw-how-activists-are-using-technology