Defending social movements against digital threats

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On this week's episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Dmitri Vitaliev. He is a co-founder and director of, a non-profit based in Montreal that helps human rights organizations and social movements -- including some of the world's most prominent -- deal with increasingly crucial questions of online security and digital privacy.

Information technology and the many resources and tools that comprise the online world are, for better or worse, integral to how most activist and organizing efforts in North America today do their work. Yet according to today's guest, activists and organizers in this country are considerably less aware than those in most of the rest of the world when it comes both to the digital threats they face (from surveillance to disruption) and to the skills and tools necessary to counter these threats.

Dmitri Vitaliev is an IT professional who has for many years specialized in digital security and privacy technology in support of people who are engaged in independent media work and people who are on the frontlines of struggles for rights, justice, and freedom around the world. He has done a great deal of work to create resources and to build knowledge and capacity on these questions among activists and organizers.

In recent years, that work has primarily happened in the context of, an organization that defines its mission as being "to promote and defend fundamental freedoms and human rights" through working to "create accessible technology and improve the skill set needed for defending human rights and freedoms in the digital age." They aim to do this in large part through creating digital tools of various kinds, but also through education and capacity building. One area of particular expertise has been defending activist websites against what are called "distributed denial of service" attacks, a means of online attack meant to knock websites offline. Though most of the groups that they work with prefer not to be named, a couple of prominent websites they have been enlisted to protect and that have given permission to be identified publicly include Black Lives Matter in the United States and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (or BDS) movement that emerged from Palestinian civil society and has been taken up around the world.

Vitaliev talks with me about his own history of contributions to human rights work as an IT professional, about the work of, about the relatively low level of interest and knowledge on these questions among many activist and organizers in North America, and about what we can do to start changing that.

To learn more about the work of, click here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show check out its website here. You can also follow us on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact [email protected] to join our weekly email update list.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

The image that was modified for use in this post is the logo of, taken from its website.

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