The Faculty of Modern Media at the Arab American University, in partnership with Hamla, the Arab Centre for the Development of Social Media, organized a conference about digital security under the title "Privacy in the Age of Surveillance". The conference was attended by male and female academics from Media Faculties in six Palestinian universities, in addition to male and female journalists, experts, specialists, and female specialists in digital media. The conference was held on the university campus in the city of Ramallah.
The activities of the conference were inaugurated by the Dean of the Faculty of Modern Media at the University, Dr. Hanadi Dwikat. In her statement, she welcomed the attendees. She referred to the importance of the topic of the conference, which includes a group of Palestinian Universities and Media Departments. She also appreciated the partnership with the Hamla Centre, considering that this partnership was built on hard work, planning, thinking, and working as one team.
Dwikat indicated that the Faculty of Modern Media is working on developing the media at a time when everyone thought that the fields of media work were on their way to extinction. She also emphasized that the vision of the faculty is exactly the opposite as it believes the media field, which was subjected to violent shocks, entered into new work spaces and interests that are supposed to be given attention and students are prepared for.
Dwikat also called on institutions and researchers to pay attention to different spaces that must be given attention in the world of threatened privacy. Such spaces include understanding the privacy of women journalists, the privacy of adolescents, men, women, and young men and women who go out into the world and who see their exposure to the digital space as an expression of their freedom and liberation from restrictions.
For her part, Nevine Abu Rahmoun, a member of the Administrative Board of Hamla Centre, thanked everyone who contributed to the success of the conference, which bears the vision of the Centre to make the Internet a safe, fair, and free place for Palestinians, to develop the capabilities of Palestinian young men and women, and to create a better reality in the Palestinian community.
Abu Rahmoun mentioned that Hamla Centre has worked to achieve a set of achievements, such as training Palestinian human staff, including university students, academics, male and female employees, and specialists, which contributed to developing their capabilities, raising awareness in digital security, digital advocacy, as well as in the field of storytelling, digital, mobile journalism, media, digital rights, and the active political participation of young men and women.
"In the Palestinian reality, there are no laws and regulations that protect the privacy and personal data of citizens. The Israeli authorities deliberately test their surveillance techniques on Palestinians before selling them to the world. As a result, self-censorship increases. Young men and women as well as people in general in Palestine are deterred from expressing their opinion", added Abu Rahmoun.
She indicated that this conference is of particular importance in the work process of the centre in order to defend digital rights, which are an extension of human rights, as their importance increases every day due to the increasing centrality of the digital field in all aspects of contemporary life.
The inauguration ceremony was followed by four scientific sessions. The first session was facilitated by Said Abu Mualla, a lecturer of digital media at the Arab American University. It was entitled "Palestinian Youth in the Digital Space: How Will Our Privacy Look Like in the Future?" In this session, Thaer Thabit, Director of Educational Media at the Ministry of Education, Rama Salahat, a Technical Expert at Hamla Centre and specialist in Computer Science with a focus on artificial intelligence, and Omar Abu Arqoub, a professor of Media and Communication at the Faculty of postgraduate Studies at the Arab American University spoke.
As for the second session, it was entitled "How to Make the Digital Space a Safe Place for Palestinian Women". It was facilitated by Catherine Abu Amsha, from Hamla Centre. In this session, Maha Zagharid, the Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at the Women's Media and Development Foundation "TAM", and a trainer in the field of digital gender violence and Digital Security, Raya Sharpeen, and Enas Marjieh, Director of United Nations Programs in Palestine spoke.
The third session was entitled "Invisible Threats of Digital Warfare and Civil Society Defence Strategies". It was facilitated by Ahmed Al-Qadi, from Hamla Centre. In this session, Mohammad Al-Maskati, a Bahraini Human Rights Activist and Digital Security Consultant at Front Line Defenders for the Middle East and North Africa and Director of the Digital Security Helpline at Access Now, Ahmed Bakr, an expert in the field of Information Security and a former co-founder of Skype, a cyber security and artificial intelligence company, the journalist Fatin Alwan, an expert journalist in the war zone and an independent news reporter, and Akram Jariri, Director of Digital media at MOFTAH and a Digital Media Trainer, spoke.
The fourth session was devoted for experts. In this session, Dr. Islam Amro, Dean of the Faculty of Modern Sciences at the Arab American University and a specialist in Information Systems and Cybersecurity, gave a lecture about the history of surveillance and its development up to the digital age in which we live.
In addition, Dr. Mustafa Jarrar, a professor of Artificial Intelligence at Birzeit University, spoke about the computerization of the Arabic language and local dialects project.
About 300 male and female students from media faculties and departments in six Palestinian universities participated in the conference activities, including AN-Najah National University, Hebron University, Palestine Ahliya University, Kadoorie University/Ramallah, Birzeit University, and Al-Quds Open University.