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Source: Amnesty International NZ

Amnesty International’s online multimedia project, Tear Gas: An Investigation, has won a prestigious Webby Award today for the best activism website worldwide.

Hailed as the “internet’s highest honour” by The New York Times, the 25th annual Webby Awards, presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (IADAS), is the leading international award honouring excellence on the internet.

“We are delighted to achieve this distinction, which reflects the hard work our team and our partners put into ensuring that Tear Gas: An Investigation was as informative, relevant, user-friendly and visually striking as possible,” said Sam Dubberley, Head of the Crisis Evidence Lab at Amnesty International.

It is a great honour for the site to be held in such high regard by The Webby Awards judges and the public, and we hope this attention will raise awareness of the serious topic it covers. When misused by police forces, tear gas and other less-lethal weapons can actually maim and kill. 

Sam Dubberley, Head of the Crisis Evidence Lab at Amnesty International

“It is a great honour for the site to be held in such high regard by The Webby Awards judges and the public, and we hope this attention will raise awareness of the serious topic it covers. When misused by police forces, tear gas and other less-lethal weapons can actually maim and kill, in violation of international human rights law and norms. The transfer and use of tear gas must be better regulated globally.”

Record number of Webby Awards entries

This year’s Webby Awards saw 13,500 entries from 70 countries – the highest number ever.  Amnesty International won the People’s Voice Award for the “activism” category.

“Nominees like Amnesty International set the standard for innovation and creativity on the internet,” said Claire Graves, Executive Director of The Webby Awards.

Nominees like Amnesty International set the standard for innovation and creativity on the internet. 

Claire Graves, Executive Director of The Webby Awards

“It is an incredible achievement to be selected among the best of the 13,500 entries we received this year.”

Winners were announced on Tuesday, 18 May, and honoured in a star-studded, virtual show hosted by actress, writer, podcaster, and advocate Jameela Jamil

On behalf of Amnesty International, five of the global human rights movement’s activists based in Beirut, Hong Kong, Lima, Nairobi and Washington, D.C. delivered one of The Webby Awards’ famous five-word speeches: “Protect people’s right to protest.” 

Website built after extensive investigation

Amnesty International’s Crisis Evidence Lab began researching tear gas misuse around the world in 2019, primarily through analyzing videos posted to social media platforms.

Using open source investigation methods, the organization verified and highlighted events where tear gas was misused. The analysis was carried out by Amnesty International’s Digital Verification Corps, a network of students at seven universities on four continents trained in sourcing and verifying content from social media.

The resulting website – published in June 2020 and designed in partnership with Xpon Digital – includes an interactive map highlighting videos of more than 100 incidents of tear gas misuse from 31 countries and territories. It also features a series of expert interviews and a video, “Choking Dissent” produced with SITU Research, which analyzes the performance characteristics of tear gas, explains the inner workings of the munitions, and shows how their misuse can maim and kill. New incidents were added to the website in February 2021 and it will be updated periodically.

Along with the Omega Research Foundation, Amnesty International has campaigned for more than two decades for greater controls on the production, trade and use of tear gas and other law enforcement equipment and weapons. As a result, the UN and regional bodies such as the Council of Europe have recognized the need to regulate the export of this equipment.

Following high-level diplomatic advocacy by the 60+ states of the Alliance for Torture-Free Trade, supported by Amnesty International and Omega, the UN is now exploring the potential development of international trade controls on law enforcement equipment and weapons, and other goods, to prevent their use in torture and other ill-treatment and the death penalty. Amnesty International and Omega are now pressing for such measures to include tear gas and other chemical irritants.

MIL OSI