Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Threat level up

New York Times: They Helped Make Twitter Matter in Ferguson Protests 
A year ago, these three activists were ordinary Americans: a teacher, a school administrator and a temporary government employee. Like many others, they found a voice on social media to comment on the news, describe their personal experiences and relate the everyday struggles of blacks in America.

As their social media following soared during the Ferguson protests, so did their belief in the power of Twitter to dispute official statements that did not ring true. Eventually, they used Twitter and Tumblr to fund and mobilize protests and make demands on police departments and government officials. Their high-profile status also made some of them targets of intelligence monitoring and threats.
Attached to that article is a video where,
Johnetta Elzie, DeRay Mckesson and Zellie Imani read their tweets from the past year and discuss how social media boiled after the fatal shooting by a police officer of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., turning the nation’s attention to race and police conduct, and in the process changing their lives.
On Monday, Elzie and Mckesson, along with several other prominent civil rights leaders were arrested in St. Louis during a protest marking the anniversary of the killing of Michael Brown by police in Ferguson Missouri last year.  A week prior to this, we learned that the two had been marked by a cybersecurity contractor as "threat actors"
The report identifies DeRay McKesson and Johnetta Elzie, two prominent Black Lives Matter organizers who took part in the Baltimore protests, as "threat actors" for whom "immediate response is recommended." It describes McKesson and Elzie as "high" severity, "physical," and "#mostwanted" threats and notes both have a "massive following" on social media. It says that ZeroFox was engaged in "continuous monitoring" of their social media accounts and specifies their geographical locations at the time of the report. The report does not suggest that the pair were suspected of criminal activity but were "main coordinators of the protests."
Yikes. The NYT story where Mckesson and Elzie  read their tweets also describes their lives before the Brown incident and how they came to be subsequently honored as "threat influencers" by cyberspooks like ZeroFox.
But on Aug. 8, 2014, the day before Mr. Brown was killed, Ms. Elzie was 25 and living in St. Louis. She had just finished a job as a phone interviewer for the United States Department of Agriculture and was considering going back to school. She had a community of friends and maybe 2,000 Twitter followers, and used social media to comment on topics like makeup, movies and sports.

On the day Mr. Brown died, Ms. Elzie drove to Ferguson and started tweeting and posting photographs and videos to social media. She has not stopped. A year later, she has more than 57,000 followers on Twitter. She is now an organizing member of the group WeTheProtesters.org, along with Mr. Mckesson.

Mr. Mckesson, 30, monitored Twitter during the first few days of last August’s protests from his home in Minneapolis, where he worked as a school administrator and had 1,000 or so Twitter followers. But after watching protesters in Ferguson clash with a militarized police force, he packed his car and tweeted, “En route to Ferguson.” In the months since, Mr. Mckesson has become a full-time protester and organizer, and a go-to source for reporters covering protests around the country. He has 200,000 Twitter followers.
While few of us in New Orleans can relate to the experience of being marked as "threat actors," some of us have been referred to on occasion as "dangerous people from the internet."  What many of us can relate to is the experience of organizing a broad online support community in the wake of a national tragedy.
After the flood that followed Hurricane Katrina’s landfall, the internet became a vital connection among dispersed New Orleanians, former New Orleanians, friends of the city and of the Gulf Coast region. A surge of new blogs erupted and, combined with those that were already online, a community of bloggers with a shared interest in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast developed. In the summer of 2006, after the success of the first Geek Dinner, and to mark the anniversary of the flood, the newly formed NOLA Bloggers organized the first Rising Tide Conference, taking their shared interest in technology, the internet and social media and turning advocacy for the city into action.
Which is one of many reasons we're proud to welcome Deray Mckesson to speak at the tenth Rising Tide conference this year. The kind of grass roots organizing through social media Mckesson has excelled in really exemplifies the spirit of what brought Rising Tide together in the first place. At least that's what we've been writing on the website all these years.
Leveraging the power of bloggers and new media, the Rising Tide Conference is a launch pad for organization and action. Our day-long program of speakers and presentations is tailored to inform, entertain, enrage and inspire.

We come together to dispel myths, promote facts, highlight progress and regress, discuss recovery ideas, and promote sound policies at all levels. We aim to be a "real life" demonstration of internet activism as we continue to recover from a massive failure of government on all levels.
Giving a platform to "threat influencers" since 2006. Maybe should add some language in there about that too. 

Rising Tide X is August 29, 2015 at Xavier University. Check out the rest of the website for details about the extensive program. You can go for free this year but please register here. If you'd like to help defray the cost of production or order swag, there's a separate GoFundMe page here

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