Twitter today announced the expansion of its #ThereIsHelp notification service and Freedom of Expression Search Prompt in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. This is a part of its continued efforts to protect and promote the #OpenInternet globally. The search prompt is a first for these countries, and marks the anniversary of the launch in Thailand last year.
As part of this initiative, Twitter is partnering with local civic and government organizations (@KomnasHAM, @LBH_Jakarta, @safenetvoice, @CIJ_Malaysia, @lawyers4liberty, @SUHAKAM, @chrgovph, @idealsorgph, and @nuplphilippines), and the notification service will appear whenever people search keywords associated with freedom of expression on Twitter. The prompt will make available hotline numbers of these organizations and links to local partners to those in need of advice or access to resources related to freedom of expression and digital rights.
"At Twitter, our mission is to serve the public conversation. We believe that freedom of expression along with access to a free and #OpenInternet is a fundamental human right. The pressures driving internet regulation in Southeast Asia highlight diverse challenges and implications, this is especially so for vulnerable groups. Expanding the #ThereIsHelp search prompt is part of our continued commitment to helping at-risk voices in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Our collaboration with local partners will ensure timely and easy access to important information and essential resources for those who need it most,” said Monrawee Ampolpittayanant - Head of Public Policy and Philanthropy, Southeast Asia at Twitter.
Twitter has become part of the daily life of millions of people; particularly for at-risk groups such as journalists and activists, and as the digital economy in Southeast Asian countries continues to grow, there is an increasing demand for access to free, high quality information via the internet and the right of people to safely express themselves. The future of the internet in Southeast Asia is at a crossroads with increasingly stringent regulatory frameworks potentially restricting freedom of expression and it has never been more important for people - especially activists and journalists - to know their rights and that support is available.
"Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet) recognizes the shrinking number of online and offline civic spaces for Indonesians. In 2020, 36,2% of Indonesians did not feel free to express their opinions on social media and many experience online harassment and violence online. Today, we have many initiatives to support Indonesians but awareness is relatively low,” said Damar Juniarto, Executive Director at SAFEnet. “We warmly welcome this breakthrough partnership with Twitter that will help bring more attention to our plethora of resources, amplify our initiatives and let Indonesians know #ThereIsHelp.”
“Freedom of expression is core to human rights and democracy. Every citizen has the right to constructively share their opinions and at the same time, have their constitutional rights protected,” said Beka Ulung Hapsara, Commissioner of Komnas HAM for Human Rights Education and Promotion. “Komnas HAM appreciates initiatives, such as #ThereIsHelp, that gives a clear path to organizations who provide important information on freedom of expression and access to justice in indonesia. This is very closely aligned with Komnas HAM’s main mandate which is to ensure freedom of expression is protected in Indonesia.”
“The rights and access to information disclosure, participation, and freedom of opinion and expression are fundamental rights of citizens in a democratic country. Therefore, these civil and political rights must be respected and protected. LBH Jakarta is an organization that actively encourages respect, protection and fulfillment of human rights and the establishment of democracy. We appreciate Twitter’s involvement in providing a safe space for users to be able to express their opinions in the digital space," said Arif Maulana, Director of LBH Jakarta.
“As we navigate the ever-changing, dynamic political space and the pandemic in Malaysia, we continue to battle attempts by state and non-state actors that threaten and limit our freedom of expression and speech as well as our right to information,” said Wathshlah Naidu, Executive Director of Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) Malaysia. “The increase in both online and offline harassment, and attempts to silence those who speak up, demonstrate the urgent need to take action against these injustices. The #ThereIsHelp initiative by Twitter is timely and we hope that this collaboration would enable us to reach out and support a wider range of communities and individuals who need information and assistance.”
“Freedom of expression is the cornerstone of a democratic country and while it is a part of our Federal Constitution, criminal charges continue to be brought against individuals who are simply exercising their right to free speech. Today, laws such as the Sedition Act and section 233(1)(a) of the Communications and Multimedia Act are sometimes used in a way that discourage the rakyat from speaking their minds,” said Zaid Malek, Director of Lawyers for Liberty. “As an organization that seeks to protect and promote human rights and civil liberties, our partnership with Twitter is significant and will greatly help the public to get access and information regarding their rights should they face harassment from authorities. They will know that they are not alone.”
“Investigations against expressions of dissent may result in harassment and, if continued to be left unchecked, may create a longer term impact where people are unable to exercise their right to freedom of expression in fear of legal repercussions. Partnering with Twitter on the #ThereIsHelp search prompt will empower people and give them the confidence to express themselves without fear,” said a representative from The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM).
“When the law is weaponized to silence those who speak truth to power, it is important that safeguards are put in place to defend them," said Atty. Ansheline Bacudio, Program Manager for Human Rights, the Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services (IDEALS). "Through Tisya Hustisya, our online legal platform, we have assisted over 25,000 Filipinos, including those who have experienced threats, harassment, and red-tagging simply for expressing their opinions. We welcome our collaboration with Twitter as we intensify our fight for freedom of expression and empower more people to fight for and claim their rights.”
“The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (“NUPL”) stands with the people in defending and promoting freedom of expression and the press. These are significant rights that are increasingly compromised in the Philippines, especially with the rise of censorship and the weaponization of penal laws for issues such as cyber libel, disinformation on social networks and cyberattacks on media websites. In this partnership with Twitter, NUPL seeks to provide a safe space for at-risk voices and providing victims of censorship and repression access to important resources through the #ThereIsHelp search prompt,” said Atty. Edre Olalia, President, NUPL.
"The stories that we share and consume help shape our fundamental freedoms and democracy. This is why the Commission on Human Rights is committed to upholding press freedom and fighting disinformation in the Philippines. These issues are amplified online, so we are excited to be collaborating with Twitter to address them and equip Filipinos with the knowledge on their basic human rights and access to resources that seek to protect them,” said Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia, Executive Director at Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
Twitter's #ThereIsHelp notification service provides timely support when and where it is needed the most. In partnership with reputable local organizations, the search prompt helps to surface authoritative information and provides direct contact information to credible sources of help, enabling people timely access to the information they need. Today, Twitter has launched over 300 #ThereIsHelp prompts with 41 languages available in 106 markets around the world on a wide range of issues; including mental health and suicide prevention, vaccination, child sexual exploitation, COVID-19, gender-based violence, HIV and disaster response. In Southeast Asia, the Freedom of Expression search prompt was first launched in Thailand last year as part of Twitter’s global effort to help connect people in need of legal support when exercising the right to freedom of expression. The launch in Thailand marked an important milestone for Twitter globally as it was the first search prompt developed for Human Rights Defenders.