New project: Working towards a  healthier and more robust information ecosystem in Latin America and the Caribbean

Barbara Paes

Português | Español

We’re excited to share that we’re starting a new project aimed at contributing to a healthy and robust information ecosystem in Latin America and the Caribbean, supported by the Latin America Programme at Open Society Foundations. 

Healthy and robust information ecosystems are crucial: they are connected to greater community cohesion, healthier civic spaces, higher voter turnout, increased trust in public institutions, and less polarised public dialogue. Being able to access, create, disseminate and share critical information about the world is foundational for individuals, organisations and communities to survive, adapt and even transform in the face of change, stress, shocks and disruption.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, we’ve witnessed concerning trends when it comes to the information ecosystem in recent years. Lack of or unequal access to information continues to be a key challenge throughout the region. Inequity in access to reliable internet and digital technologies has continued to affect many groups in various parts of the region, especially in rural areas and forest territories. 

At the same time, more and more state actors, corporate stakeholders and extremist groups in the region have been using the internet to undermine the work of activists dedicated to vital issues such as transparency and accountability, access to law or justice, land, water, women’s LGBTQI+ reproductive rights, and indigenous and racial justice. Disinformation and misinformation have helped to foment hate speech against vulnerable groups.

In our work supporting civil society organisations and activists with their tech and data, we see how attacks against activists and journalists are frequent and on the rise, with digital attacks becoming more sophisticated and pervasive. Relatedly, many governments in the region have been using surveillance technology, which impacts civil society and human rights defenders. 

At The Engine Room, we believe that we’re in a crucial moment to bring together organisers and activists who have diverse perspectives and expertises, and who are resilient and savvy to drive necessary change in relation to Latin America’s information ecosystems.

Our plans for this project 

During the first phase of the project, we’ll be mapping the landscape of the Latin American information ecosystem, with a specific focus on trends and regional differences around dis- and misinformation, access to information, privacy and security, as well as freedom of expression. 

For this research, we are looking to compile learnings from existing coalitions and advocacy efforts within civil society. We’ll conduct a series of interviews and host community calls with representatives from the region’s civil society groups, journalistic communities, technology and cybersecurity experts, and philanthropic institutions. 

In the second phase, we will organise an in-person convening with activists and organisers, where we’ll co-create a shared, multilingual toolkit with recommendations and ideas for impactful advocacy efforts, campaigning and storytelling aimed at strengthening the region’s information ecosystem. During the event, we’ll collectively explore strategies for organisations to keep their operations protected, sustainable and resilient and dedicate space for field leaders to imagine and act towards a future where meaningful change is achieved. (We’ll share more about this convening over the next few months as the project unfolds!). 

Throughout the whole duration of the project, and particularly after the toolkit is launched, we’re providing hands-on tech and data support to civil society organisations, activists and journalists (sign up here!). We hope to use findings from the research we conduct, as well as our previous experience supporting social justice organisations, to better support Latin American and Caribbean civil society organisations to proactively defend their operations from dis- and misinformation campaigns and increase their digital resilience

Get involved 

We’re far from being the only ones interested in strengthening the information ecosystem in the region – there has been so much fantastic work being done in Latin America and the Caribbean! We’d love to build on existing knowledge and connect with digital rights researchers, journalists and representatives of independent media, human rights defenders, philanthropic institutions, technologists, cybersecurity practitioners, and academics from the region who are interested in sharing their insights and ideas with us! 

If you want to get in touch to learn more about the project and/or share insights from your work, feel free to reach out to barbara@theengineroom.org. 

We’re hosting a community call in a few weeks to talk about the challenges civil society is facing in the information ecosystem in the region. We’ll share more information about the event in our blog soon (and you can sign up to our newsletter to make sure you don’t miss it!).

We look forward to working with many of you on this project! 

Image by Visax via Unsplash.

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