HRF @ SXSW 2018

In 2018, HRF returned to SXSW and hosted a panel examining the intersection of technology and the human condition. A fully-engaged audience listened as we discussed how decentralized technology has the potential to help human rights activists and journalists alike.

At the always busy, always hectic trade show, HRF distinguished itself amongst the madness with what proved to be an extremely popular booth created in partnership with the fashion company DEAR LEADER. Together, we debuted The Freedom Collection, a new and striking line of sunglasses inspired by nine Oslo Freedom Forum speakers.

Hundreds of people, including the Crown Prince of Norway, tried on sunglasses and learned more about the remarkable human rights activists that helped design them.

HRF also hosted the panel: “Everyday Ways to Fight Oppression,” where Saudi women’s rights activist Manal al-Sharif, Pakistani squash star Maria Toorpakai Wazir, and anti-female genital mutilation advocate Leyla Hussein shared their inspiring stories about their work in a conversation led by HRF president Thor Halvorssen. Following the panel, Manal and Maria signed copies of their books “Daring to Drive” and “A Different Kind of Daughter,” to many inspired followers of their work.

Our presence was also felt at a workshop titled “How Technology Can Save the Yazidi Community.” Participants joined as Yazidi activist Deelan Dakhil, HRF, and Elefint Designs led a hands-on design sprint to create a digital platform to help better document the crimes being committed against the Yazidi people, a minority group in Iraq.

HRF was chosen to speak at SXSW’s Ignite programming, in a talk called “From WeChat to Bitcoin,” covering how different kinds of technology are being used by dictators and individual rights advocates.

We collaborated with the city of Oslo on a panel to discuss investing in democracy technology. Panelists included Oslo Vice Mayor for Business Kjetil Lund, Blockstack co-founder Dr. Muneeb Ali, Diwala co-founder Thea Sommerseth, Bitfury’s Rachel Pipan, and ConsenSys’s Ben Siegel. Attendees learned about how new decentralized technologies have helped to develop a new investment philosophy that can strengthen individual rights and freedoms.

And we hosted a workshop with representatives from Singularity University and the cryptocurrency hedge fund Crypto Lotus to discuss the impact that blockchain technologies have on society, politics, economics and human rights.

HRF’s SXSW programming concluded with a screening of short documentaries focusing on the work of Oslo Freedom Forum speakers and a panel including Syrian citizen journalist Abdalaziz Alhamza, HRF director of outreach Jim Warnock, the Moving Picture Institute’s Lana Link, and Smock Media founder Adam Hawk Jensen. We explored how film can help build empathy, shed light on the struggle for freedom, and urge action.