Documenting the 114A online protest and celebrating Malaysian Internet Blackout Day.
And there I was sipping coffee, enjoying the hartal and boycott #198Actions via #PuasaNet in conjunction with the @CIJ_Malaysia sponsored Internet Blackout Day, August 14 when @vangeyzel calls to say that he has been (telepathically) summoned by Lord Bobo to instruct me to write about #Stop114A and #198Actions. I could not say no to the whims of His Supreme Eminenceness.
Maintaining the net fast for more than 24 hours, and thoroughly revelling in it, being offline has quite truly been a liberation of the mind, soul and spirit. My work and personal auto-reply message read:
Hi! Thank you for your email.
I am participating in a nationwide Internet Blackout Day on 14 August 2012 in protest of a new law made under section 114A of the Evidence Act. The law is unfair and reverses the burden of guilt in Court while it violates my freedom of expression besides creating a chilling effect on users of the www.
See here for more information about why many of us are doing this non-violent, direct action:
Given the above, I will not be accessing my emails the whole day.
I shall endeavour to get back to you as soon as possible after my return. For urgent matters, please do call ..[-deleted-].. and I will return your call. Or we can meet.
Thank you and I apologise for any inconvenience caused.
I had less intrusive thoughts and stress, more peace and calmness, and spent more quality face-time with my colleagues and community movers by not going on the net the whole day. Not to mention of course knowing that in solidarity many, many, many others on the net were doing the same.
Cast our minds back to how this chain of events started.
Government proposes the Evidence Act amendment to include section 114A reversing the burden of guilt on the defendant user. Instead of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ it is now ‘guilty until proven innocent’. No effective or meaningful consultation is reported.
Parliament rushes to pass the amendment. Boo! To-date, I am uncertain as to the genuine rationale for 114A since I have not seen problems prosecuting criminal or civil cases in net cases.
Not many people take notice of section 114A, let alone understand the implications. Some MPs too.
Playing the ‘Reformer’ role in Bill Moyer’s ‘4 Roles of Activists’ exposition #MoyerModel, @CIJ_Malaysia and @xescx lead a small group of Malaysians to kick up a storm. They meet and strategise. #Stop114A commences.
Not being privileged to be privy to the activism, it gets a bit hazy but do verify what I am saying online. Sorry if I do not capture all the facts or in the manner of precise chronology — this is the peril of verbal-based written history — but archive we must.
#Stop114A issues a press release and meets with MPs in Parliament to hand over a note of dissent calling for the repeal of 114A. Nothing much is heard except the usual: “we will look into it”. Reformer role played out.
The ‘Citizen’ reads about it, and some concerns are raised here and there but nothing of significance. But the curve rapidly steepens, upwards.
In one of the #Stop114A meetings, Honey Tan puts on her ‘Rebel’ hat and proposes having a net blackout day. Anecdotal evidence suggests there are no objections.
@S_Y_New – a strident young Bar activist and a quite certain activist first-team pick for the near future – chooses dark grey. All agree though in hindsight no one knows why. August 14 is the appointed date. This is the ‘Trigger’ event or action in Moyer’s ‘8 Stages of Social Movements’ #MoyerModel. #Stop114A realises there is a need to up the ante and takes on the Rebel role calling for all sites to place a ‘Stop 114A’ pop-up page on August 14.
In the meantime, #Stop114A moves ahead to spread the message among the people – the role of the ‘Social Change Agent’ #MoyerModel. A Siri Pemikiran Kritis forum is co-organised by @CIJ_Malaysia @N_YLC @PusatRakyatLB on 114A. Cleverly, the organisers invite progressive @saifuddinabd who usually wears the Reformer hat #MoyerModel. @macfaisal who supports 114A and @xescx @shanmuga_k who are opposed to 114A complete the line-up, moderated by former Bar Council Constitutional Law Committee Co-Chairperson Maha Balakrishnan. @saifuddinabd interestingly agrees that 114A is problematic, and vows to start the change process by asking his ‘bosses’ for a review.
August 14 comes. The count is unclear but thousands if not millions place the blackout pop-up page, go offline or simply support the Trigger. The message resonates with a substantial majority of net users and I suspect cuts across party lines because 114A would affect cybertroopers even, many who post anonymously.
But the more important date in the #Stop114A movement is historic August 13. @xescx tweets: “I’ve never seen online protest on this scale. Perhaps the first for Malaysia”.
Early that 13th morning, #Stop114A on Twitter starts to heat up. It takes a while, but incessant, repetitive tweeting catches it on fire.
The conversations over the blackout increase as many ask about the issue and express support and solidarity. Some take the Trigger further and call for a 24-hour net hartal and boycott even for work purposes to quicken awareness-raising and hoping with a substantial number in support, to cripple the economy. Personally, the more ‘stretch’ of a particular action or message to either extremes, the more pull to the ‘centre’ the majority will move into. An example is the Hindraf movement, and see what the Government has tried to do for the ethnic Indian community.
The news continues to spread throughout the day. @WikiLeaks with more than a million followers picks up #Stop114A and provides another boost. Little resistance to the Trigger is seen on Twitter.
August 13 marks the emotion-building and online mobilisation segment akin to preparations for a massive ground rally the next day. Cyberspace swells.
Movement building and community organising is not a strict science.
UndiMsia!’s original formulation of the #ActionPyramid seeks to help the activists design their campaigns better for greater impact.
Analysing the Trigger simplistically using the #ActionPyramid, the following come to mind:
The primary target is the person or institution (usually, powerholder) the activist wants to see change behaviour or policy. The secondary target is usually the people to raise their level of consciousness.
In #Stop114A, it would appear that the primary target is the Government, and the secondary target the grievance group, namely internet users.
In what is known as ‘gotcha politics’, activists realise the need to adopt various actions such as ‘litigation, legislation and demonstration’ to achieve their particular objective(s) or goal(s). Strategy therefore encompasses questions pertaining to the use of these actions. Conversations on strategy include:
What is the particular objective(s) or goal(s) sought?
What is the demand(s) or message(s) to be communicated to the target(s)?
What type of action(s) is to be adopted to communicate the said demand(s) or message(s) to reach the objective(s) or goal(s)? (It could be by way of litigation, legislation and demonstration, or all three.)
In #Stop114A, it would appear that objective or goal is for the Government to repeal 114A.
The message communicated is that the law is bad because it unfairly reverses the burden of guilt against the norms of criminal law and human rights, and innocent internet users would be unjustly punished.
Non-violent, direct action #198Actions is chosen to conduct the campaign.
In #Stop114A, the main action adopted through the Trigger is to persuade and influence the targets by protest through online ‘Banners, Posters, Displayed Communications’ (under the ‘Communications with a Wider Audience’ rubric) and ‘Displays of Flags and Symbolic Colours’ (under the ‘Symbolic Public Acts’ rubric) as documented in Gene Sharp’s (for The Albert Einstein Institute) #198Actions.
In effect, the activity is to descend a mass movement of users repeating the same #Stop114A message through pop-up pages on their sites.
The more paralysing and drastic actions of non-cooperation or boycott (social, economic and political) and direct intervention or disruption were not called on this time by #Stop114A. However, the possibility of a ‘Re-Trigger’ and a second Re-Trigger using more drastic measures is not to be ruled out.
At the foundation of the #ActionPyramid are tactics. Tactics are methods used to achieve success in the action(s). For example, if the action is to make a video, how do activists make the video go viral? Without proper tactics, do not attempt the action(s).
Conversations on tactics based on a map of the #BigPicture power relations and the ‘Spectrum of Allies’ include:
Who are your allies, opponents of the action(s), and the ambivalent [not those who are allies or opponent of the demand(s) or messages(s) because there are those who may agree with the demand(s) or messages(s) but disagree with the action(s)]?
What resources are needed to win over your opponents and the ambivalent, and what is to be done?
What resources are needed to connect, mobilise and organise the allies (including the media), and what is to be done?
What is to be done to make the action(s) effective and impactful?
In #Stop114A, it would appear that a combination of an online repeated spread of news, information and visuals, and timed media releases were utilised. This may not be sufficient for the future. The viral phenomenon of #Stop114A needs to be analysed by online experts. Perhaps the messaging was clear and direct? Perhaps the action was simple and fun? Perhaps everyone online felt that they could be a victim of the law?
I accept the point made by @nikicheong that #198Actions was not documented for online activism. My qualified answer is that it is the closest we can get to ideating activism to-date, and am open towards listing various online pressure direct actions.
It is still too early to tell how far #Stop114A has impacted Government behaviour and policy despite the PM saying section 114A will be reviewed.
What will happen next is for us, the people, to decide. We can rest and pat ourselves on the back or we can do a post-mortem and then go to work again.
We have to be cautious. Do not jump to say clickactivism works.
#Stop114A blackout was an extremely low-risk action, and the online supportive task of replication was easy. The media played a huge part and followed TwitterJaya’s lead. PM had little to lose to say 114A will be reviewed. Some MPs looked good supporting #Stop114A, and with elections round the corner, PM relents. It also does not seem that any pending high-profile net cases will be affected. #Stop114A supporters are galvanised knowing it CAN be done. On this score, yes, a small victory.
But until the section is repealed, our work in our roles as Reformers, Rebels, Social Change Agents and Citizens cannot stop. Everyone must work together, and all must effectively play our part in our different capacities. I urge the continuation of the struggle against 114A. Volunteer to work with the #Stop114A team (who must deserve our utmost appreciation having taken us so far), and spread the message.
It must nevertheless be said that, in a #BigPicture analysis of 114A and how it came about, there are serious flaws in our system of representative democracy:
Was the introduction of section 114A what the people wanted?
Was there any effective or meaningful consultation with the people by the Government or your MP before the amendment was introduced?
Did you know how your MP voted, if at all?
Do you think your MP represented your views by voting in a certain way, or abstaining, if at all?
If you support #Stop114A, do you feel upset, aggrieved and disappointed that section 114A was passed in Parliament? If so, do you feel upset, aggrieved and disappointed that Malaysians had to resort to #198Actions to pressure the Government because we had no other choice?
Do you genuinely feel that, today, you and your views are adequately represented by your MP in Parliament?
Do you genuinely feel that, today, you have a voice in the governance of the country, or any influence over your MP?
It is systemic and institutional reform we need to return ‘real people power’.
Our vote once every five years is important because it is so infrequent, but it is also not important because it does not actually and fully represent our views on matters affecting us. Until political parties say they will change the system to dilute the various power structures, we may have to resort to more blackouts, daily. And not just online.