While we as a community are accustomed to working remotely, as individuals we’re not immune to the effects of the changes being wrought upon the world by COVID-19. The severity of this virus has the potential to radically upend the lives of even the most resilient members of our community.
Global Voices is performing incredibly strongly in response to this crisis. A special note of appreciation for all the hard work you’ve put in over the past two months – whether you’re an editor, a writer or a translator. We have thus far published well over 100 stories on COVID-19, from nearly 50 countries. In March we published our highest volume of posts in several years, and our recorded traffic is some of the highest in the entire history of Global Voices, with combined traffic in March of nearly a million pageviews.
The pandemic is playing out very differently in different parts of the globe, of course, as we’ve seen from the stories being told by various GVers on our Instagram account. Some of us find ourselves under strict lockdown, sometimes in jurisdictions that impose heavy penalties for breaking the rules. Some of us live in places where resources to fight the virus are scarce. And some may be living in places where the rates of infection are high enough for going about our days to pose some risk.
Here at GV we’ve been trying to provide as much support as we can, including safety and security, space for emotional support, and some resources in the event people become sick. Following are recent activities for you to be aware of:
We’ve created protocols for our paid contractors, including support for those who might be ill, and leeway in story output and arrangements for taking time off, if needed. See https://community.globalvoices.org/guide/admin-guides/global-voices-response-to-covid-19/.
Communication, communication, communication
We’re taking extra time in every meeting and engagement to make sure people have space to talk about their experiences, if they feel the need. With that in mind, please don’t wait until a situation becomes difficult to talk with your editor, or with Georgia and Ivan, about challenges you may be facing. Let’s work together to address concerns before they become problems.
Many of you will have read news stories questioning the security protocols of the video conferencing platform Zoom. GV has used Zoom for several years, and we’ve been following that discussion closely as it relates to our own practices and security protocols. After evaluating the concerns and discussions with digital security advisors, Global Voices will continue to use Zoom and monitor their progress toward addressing the platform’s security challenges. All of our Zoom conversations were already invitation-only; in some circumstances we expect to add additional password protection, as the need warrants.
Please note that every video conferencing service has similar issues, and some are worse than Zoom, without having a corresponding level of features, quality and price. The best open source alternative, Jitsi, also has a history of security challenges, while lacking the full functionality that we need for our work.
As before, we recommend against using any multi-user video platform in situations where security and safety are concerns. Secure communications require careful security protocols, and in such cases we should use services with robust encryption, such as Signal, WhatsApp, the email service Tutanota, and similar.
Please review our comprehensive Communications and Safety Guidelines. We update this page regularly to standardize our advice for a given technology. For more advice, feel free to reach out to any member of the Infosafety Working Group (Maryalice, Georgia, Gohary, Jer).
Dealing with new laws and measures imposed in your location
As a result of the pandemic, some governments have clamped down on the free flow of information and on freedom of movement. Their motives may be well-intentioned, such to limit the spread of the virus or of mis- and disinformation. They might also be designed to cover up government missteps or a pretext for curbing freedom of expression more generally. Failure to follow lockdown or curfew rules, publicly criticizing government policies, or the sharing of certain kinds of information on social media can, in certain countries, carry severe penalties, including arrest and imprisonment.
Please be sure to pay very close attention to the measures implemented in your location (also note that they can sometimes change very quickly) and do your best to abide by them. Some countries are moving toward martial law, such as the Philippines, or arresting, fining and even imprisoning people for breaking COVID-19 related restrictions.
If you are uncertain whether a story you are editing or writing is affected by any of the new laws, or about any related issue around safety and censorship, please contact your editor or Filip Noubel, our Managing Editor.
With the increase in internet traffic during this period, networks can become overwhelmed and it may not be possible to upload stories in WordPress. If this happens to you, please contact your team lead and let them know. Possible solutions in such a case include sending the text to another teammate by email or a messaging app for them to upload on your behalf. Under no circumstances should any community member risk their well-being in order to post or research a story: for example, by spending time using public wifi at a library or internet cafe where they could be exposed to the virus.
In the event that your internet connectivity is degraded or unavailable for a prolonged period of time, please contact your team leads as soon as possible to discuss alternative methods of communication.
In the spirit of remaining connected during a time when most of us are at home, we organized a successful pilot week of online sessions called GV Community Exchanges, where we invited fellow community members to share their interests and passions outside of GV. So far, sessions have included the art of tea-making, a screening of a documentary film from El Salvador combined with a Director’s Q&A, meditation, and a DJ set live from Skopje, North Macedonia, all led by GV community members, we’re ready to build upon this experience.
We created an online form to learn about what types of sessions you would be interested in attending, as well as the ideal time/day for scheduling the Community Exchanges. More importantly, we would also like to hear from you by soliciting ideas of sessions that you and other community members would like to lead. So if you have an idea of an online session that you can share with others, please add the idea in the form (https://forms.gle/m17UnHD9AhoEeTWf7) with a short description. We’ll try to make matches based on the requests from the community and what others are willing to offer.