My Year Being a Ford-Mozilla Open Web Fellow :)

Carlos A Guerra M
Read, Write, Participate
4 min readAug 27, 2018

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About a year ago, I was a bit nervous to say the least looking for being selected as a Ford-Mozilla Open Web Fellow 2017, thinking of a lot of things I would want to do and the challenge that it would represent for me. Anyhow, after finishing my time as a fellow, I just can say that this was one of the best journeys I had!

In the first place, I had the chance to work with Derechos Digitales Latinoamérica based in Chile, an organization historically associated with policy research and activism, they were starting a team to work on technical issues and they wanted me to help them shaping this new branch of the institution, it was very significant for me to help with this on one of the rockstar organizations in my region!

During my fellowship, thinking in making more accessible to the general public a series of resources explaining not only the threats that using technology brings, but also the positive use and what we can do to take advantage of what internet is able to offer us, I worked mostly in three projects:

The first one, was a series of tests of the Whatsapp platform in order to better understand the circumstances when law enforcement can intercept supposedly secure messages sent by journalists and activists, as apparently was the case in Chile to messages sent by indigenous leaders. Our report helps not only activists and the public to learn the real risk to democracy/free speech when this happens, but also activists and high profile people to figure out what is secure and what really isn’t. The report is in Spanish at the moment (https://www.derechosdigitales.org/wp-content/uploads/Confiable-y-seguro.pdf ) with an English version on the making.

The second one is a handbook and website to help activist organizations and media outlets write their first security policies. As I have seen in my region, a lot of small organizations don’t have the time, staff or resources to build comprehensive security policies for their own practice, so this project gives them an accessible platform to protect themselves in a realistic way. The project can be found in https://sdamanual.org

The third one is a long-term project that is still in development. The idea is basically being able to look at trending topics on Twitter and execute a software tool to assess how much of the content has been generated by people versus bots. This could have major ramifications on elections and other contexts where misinformation manipulates public discussion. This project is supposed to be released as open source soon.

One of the coolest parts of doing this work is that in parallel I had the chance to connect with the other fellows and with the Mozilla staff, letting me know and better perceive their open philosophy and their awesome ecosystem of projects and initiatives, having total advice and support from all the people around me during the process, turning the fellow experience from nervousness and challenging at the beginning into a completely warm and even funny ride, where I grew with a lot of support.

Above all, having this experience gave me better tools to understand technology, activism and policy, the ability to mix them and spread the word of any of them within the others, which is a job turning harder each day in this high specialization times. Also this past year gave me better skills to transmit this mindset to other people and organizations, so I can help them to move forward to a more challenging and satisfactory philosophy in terms of a healthy internet and openness.

After this outstanding experience, one of my next steps is to continue the work with Derechos Digitales Latinoamérica developing projects specially on research and capacity building in the region, also starting a new organization; I was looking for this right before my fellowship begun, but now I feel quite better prepared and connected with so many people and organizations that I firmly believe that THIS is the right time to go for it.

This new organization aims to fill the gap between the people creating technology and the human rights activists and journalists in need for this technology. As I have seen throughout my career, technology creators are not often connected to people in field who are at risk. We will be the bridge to ensure that technologists are hearing from and working with journalists and human rights defenders.

It’s incredible how much can change for the better in a process like this, and all of this happened in less than a year o.O

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Carlos A Guerra M
Read, Write, Participate

Venezolano en Chile. Trabajo con Derechos Digitales Latinoamérica y Con-nexo en investigación, Seguridad Organizacional y desarrollo entre otras cosas :)