While the growth of the internet initially empowered activists, recent years have seen the rise of a new brand of digital authoritarianism in which repressive governments use new technology to surveil and censor opposition and flood their publics with misinformation. While the challenges are real and significant, recent USIP research has uncovered countless stories of effective adaptation by brave and innovative activists on the frontlines of some of the greatest social justice struggles of our time.

These lessons come at a crucial time. As democracy wanes in many regions of the world, and the growth of advanced digital technology in everyday life only accelerates, effective adaptation to the repressive use of technology is a key challenge.

USIP hosted thought leaders and grassroots activists for a discussion on how they have responded to rising digital authoritarian tactics, as well as a presentation of new cutting-edge research from USIP experts on how social movements are using new technologies and organizing strategies to adapt and advocate for a more just, democratic and peaceful world.

Join the conversation on Twitter with #PeoplePower4Peace.

Speakers

Glacier Kwong 
Project Manager, Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong

Steven Feldstein 
Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Gbenga Sesan 
Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative

Lisa Poggialli
Democracy, Data and Technology Specialist, USAID

Matthew Cebul, moderator
Research Officer, U.S. Institute of Peace

Related Publications

In the Struggle for Peace, Four Lessons From a Leader

In the Struggle for Peace, Four Lessons From a Leader

Thursday, May 5, 2022

By: Jonathan Pinckney, Ph.D.

Recent years of declining democracy and rising authoritarianism and violent conflict form what President Biden and others call the “defining challenge of our time.” Biden, like millions of people, see nonviolent struggles for freedom, such as those led by the Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as humanity’s best way to meet this challenge. Last week, though few may have realized it, the world lost a man who, over the last fifty years, helped us to understand and act on that insight: Dr. Peter Ackerman.

Type: Blog

Nonviolent Action

Sowing the Seeds of Nonviolent Action in Sudan

Sowing the Seeds of Nonviolent Action in Sudan

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

By: Marija Marovic;  Zahra Hayder

From 2013 to 2018, Sudanese civil society actors carved out a variety of civic spaces that laid the foundation for Sudan’s 2018–2019 December Revolution. This report assesses the factors that gave rise to this remarkable mobilization—in particular how civil society development ultimately enabled the Sudanese opposition to sustain a decentralized, nationwide, and robust nonviolent campaign characterized by widespread mass participation, unity of leadership and purpose, and a commitment to nonviolent discipline—and what it will take to keep the country’s democratic transition on track.

Type: Special Report

Nonviolent Action

Dissent and Dialogue: The Role of Mediation in Nonviolent Uprisings

Dissent and Dialogue: The Role of Mediation in Nonviolent Uprisings

Monday, April 11, 2022

By: Isak Svensson;  Daan van de Rijzen

While both mediation and nonviolent resistance have been the subject of significant scholarly work, the connection of the two fields has received less attention. Using newly collected data on nonviolent uprisings Africa from the Mediation in Nonviolent Campaigns data set, this report explores several questions: When does mediation occur in the context of nonviolent campaigns? Who tends to mediate? What are the challenges, and what are the outcomes? The study offers overall takeaways, policy conclusions, and recommendations for future research.

Type: Special Report

Mediation, Negotiation & DialogueNonviolent Action

Nonviolent Action in the Era of Digital Authoritarianism: Hardships and Innovations

Nonviolent Action in the Era of Digital Authoritarianism: Hardships and Innovations

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

By: Matthew Cebul, Ph.D.;  Jonathan Pinckney, Ph.D.

In the late 2000s and early 2010s, nonviolent action movements employed social media and other digital tools to orchestrate pro-democracy uprisings that took regimes by surprise. Those euphoric early days have since given way to digital repression, restricted online freedoms, and democratic backsliding as authoritarian regimes leverage new technologies to surveil the opposition and sow misinformation. This report documents how nonviolent activists are adapting to digital repression and suggests ways the United States and its allies can slow the pace of autocratic innovation in the use of these technologies.

Type: Special Report

Nonviolent Action

View All Publications