Tag Archives: Activismo

Big tech, money and the rampant undermining of democracy: Where are we headed?

countries where cambridge analytics meddled

countries where Cambridge analytics meddled

Recently a new film called The Great Hack was released by film makers Karin Amer and Jehane Noujaim, who also documented the Arab Spring movement in Egypt a few years ago.

Characters in the film describe how the “handmaidens of authoritarianism” like facebook are “playing with the psychology of an entire country without their consent or awareness… in the context of the democratic process.”

The Great Hack recounts the story of how Facebook sold the data of millions of people to a company called Cambridge Analytica, which is based in the United Kingdom. But this is not just about the undermining of personal data of millions of people. This is not just about my baby photos, our salad photos, our stories being used in ways we did not intend. The story is far grimmer. The data was used to undermine democracy in many countries across the world. This is the scary part of the story, which should give us all pause.

The personal data and personal preferences of individual people from Facebook, was used by Cambridge Analytica to sow division in countries across the world, with the sole objective of undermining democracy and allowing political wins. This definitely was the case in the US during the 2016 presidential election where data was used to identify the ‘not-sure’ people, called “persuadables” and they were specifically fed information that would increase their support for Donald Trump.

The same tactic was used by the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union, in a process called Brexit, in 2016. Over three years later, the Brexit process continues to divide the people of the UK in terrible, democracy undermining ways. Just a few days ago, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson got the British monarch to suspend British parliament so that his Brexit deal could not be discussed and criticised in Parliament. This is a clear violation of democracy.

These democracy killing tactics were also used in many other countries. One such example was the meddling and undermining of democracy by manipulating young voters in the presidential election in Trinidad and Tobago in 2010, where facebook ads etc were used to suppress voting by a specific racial group in the country. At first the ruling party of Trinidad and Tobago just denied it, but since then they have been forced to admit that they did have conversations with Cambridge Analytica!

Although Cambridge Analytica personnel admitted to meddling in the US, Trinidad and Tobago and other countries, they never admitted to meddling in Brexit. The reason is probably that, since Cambridge Analytica was based in the UK at the time of these activities, admitting to have meddled in a UK political process would surely bring them severe consequences. But this is speculation. It is not clear why they always denied being involved in Brexit although their staff members are on tape being involved with members of the ‘Leave’ campaign.

What does this all mean? This is the new age of surveillance capitalism and the way it is undermining our human rights is frighteningly real. We fight the unmitigated power and impunity of trans national corporations (TNCs), we are fighting for a binding treaty where TNCs power and impunity can be controlled. TNCs push dirty and harmful energy across the world, they are accelerating deforestation and exacerbating food insecurity across the world. Now we discover a whole new nefariousness of TNCs- big tech corporations have so much power now that they are using our data to undermine our basic democratic rights. Representative democracy is a system where the decision-makers are elected by the people and hence people have a role and voice in the decisions that affect their lives. So decision-makers must be accountable to the people who elected them. However, we have been seeing for many years that our democratic systems have been slowly undermined. Often this takes place through the undue influence of money- those who spent more money in an election usually have been winning. But now this has been taken to a whole new level. Our political preferences which we share on social media are being tracked and used against us.

Our democracies and our societies are under attack. An article in the Guardian from 8 August 2019 revealed that “Nearly half the world’s people are living in countries where their freedom of speech and right to privacy are being eroded”. Our country, Mozambique, was listed as one of the countries where the freedom of expression in under extreme risk. This is very worrying.

So what happened to the corporation Cambridge Analytica? In end July 2019, the Federal Trade Commission of the United States levied a fine of $5 billion against Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. This was prompted by the release of The Great Hack. This is already a useful move because it attacks the money of these dirty corporations. But its not nearly enough. Cambridge Analytica was shut down but its assets were bought by the influential Mercer family and their sub-companies. What does this mean? Will the cycle of impunity of the corporations just continue unabated? We need to fight these trends. It is sometimes said that if we live in the modern world today, it is like living in a glass house. Our data is much too public. But we as consumers, as activists need to fight back against the impunity of big tech corporations. Maybe this means we need to, at least, put up curtains in our glass house. We need to protect ourselves and help other activists protect themselves. Our democracies are at stake. The stakes are really high. We need to inform ourselves and fight against this manipulation of us and the killing of our democracies.

For more information, see the twitter accounts of these people:

https://twitter.com/carolecadwalla

https://twitter.com/WendySiegelman

https://twitter.com/profcarroll

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JA! speaks truth to TNC’s in Europe!

Lobby tour participants and organisers FoE Spain in Madrid

 

Over the past few weeks, JA! took part in a lobby tour organised in Europe, by Friends of the Earth Europe, where we met with current partners, made new allies, shared our anti-gas struggle and confronted the companies and banks who make up the liquid natural gas industry in northern Mozambique. This tour was imperative for the campaign, because so many of the companies and banks involved in the industry are based in Europe.

Lobby tour participants outside the EU Brussels

The tour, which went through Rome, Madrid, Amsterdam, Paris and Brussels, was aimed at creating awareness about our struggle against the gas industry in Mozambique and demonstrating the critical need for a Binding Treaty on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations (TNCs) at the United Nations. Currently, there is no accountability mechanism at the UN, only guiding principles which companies do not abide by, as they see them as an impediment to their greed and profit.

 

Our partners had arranged for JA!, along with activists from the DRC and the Phillipines to meet with current and new partners and allies, as well as industry players and state authorities.
Panel discussion with lobby tour participants and parliamentarians in the Hague2

Our confrontations with the industry were often met with blatant hostility, when we tried to hold them accountable for their actions, and when we raised questions they didn’t like. We attended four annual general meetings (AGM’s), those of Shell, Natixis, Eni and Total.

Intervention at natixis AGM

Natixis, the French bank which arranged for the entrance of three major French banks to finance the Coral LNG Project1, was so hostile at their AGM that when JA! attempted to ask a question about their negligence and ineptness in the project, they turned off the microphone and refused to answer the question. Shareholders were shouting “go home!” as JA! and partner organisations walked out of the meeting.

 

At the Shell AGM in Amsterdam, we were part of a large contingent of civil society organisations, mostly Dutch but also some European. Shell has a sale and purchase agreement (SPA) with Mozambique LNG to buy 2 million tonnes of gas per year for 13 years.

 

JA! and an organisation from Nigeria were the only attendees from the global South. The response to our questions was, as expected, vague, but our voice had been heard and carried in the Dutch media. Shell had little respect for activists – when the Nigerian activist raised the impacts that Anadarko’s project was having on their community in the Niger Delta, the Charles Holliday, Shell’s Chairman, responded that he should approach the ‘helpdesk’ in the foyer for assistance.

Interview with online news outlet madrid2

The third AGM we attended was that of Total in Paris, which is the new owner of the Mozambique LNG Project2, since May when it purchased Anadarko’s Africa assets. Anadarko, however, is still operating the project, and plan to hand over the lead to Total at the end of the year. After Greenpeace disrupted the AGM last year, there was a large police presence, and for some reason that was not properly explained to us, even though dozens of activists had arranged for access to the AGM, only JA! and an activist from Greenpeace were allowed into the plenary. JA!’s question was met with a dismissive answer, with Total evading responsibility for the impacts of the gas industry on the ground, claiming that responsibility lies with Anadarko.

 

This was a theme that came up in all AGM’s that we attended, including the fourth one, that of Italian company Eni, in Rome. Eni, along with ExxonMobil has the biggest stake in operating the Coral South LNG Project in Mozambique. We found that all the companies that we confronted, including during the one-on-one meetings we had with industry financiers BNP Paribas and BPI (French Public Investment Bank) put all the blame for the impacts on Anadarko. When we pushed them for answers, it became clear that none of these companies had even looked at the Environmental Impact Assessment that Anadarko had made in 2014, and yet were blaming them for all the climate injustices that were taking place. They are conveniently ignorant.

 

JA!’s partners had arranged for us to hold meetings with several authoritative bodies, including Michel Forst, UN Rapporteur on HRD; French parliamentarians from the working group on human rights and TNC’s; the deputy director of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs; a parliamentarian from political party ally in Spain, Unidas Podemos; Belgian parliamentarians, and party representatives at the European Union.

 

We also met with other organisations, including Oxfam, Amnesty International, Food First Information and Action Network (FIAN), the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) and Action Aid.

 

In each country we spoke at events, to full houses of activists, journalists and the general public, some meetings of over 100 people. Our partners organising the tour had built a media campaign around our visit. Here are links to some of the articles about our struggle in European media and blogs:

 

Publico (Spain)

 

Les Echos (France)

 

Basta (France)

 

Observatories de Multinationales

 

L’Humanite (France)

 

Banktrack

 

Foe Scotland

 

It was great to see the amount of interest in our campaign, once people were made aware of the issue, and on the flipside, frightening to see how little attention the industry had been given in European media. But we believe that this tour has taken us several steps forward in the following ways:

  •  We have made many new partners and allies in the campaign throughout Europe, strengthening our coalition
  • We have shared the campaign with people working on or interested in the issue of fossil fuels and climate justice, including activists, journalists, academics and students.
  • We have directly questioned industry players one on one, from which we received some crucial information
  • We raised the issue in large industry public platforms, AGM’s, leading to attention on written and social media, and making shareholders aware
  • We have brought the issue to the radar of high level individuals on an EU level, and on the level of political parties, parliament and ministries

Now that we have strengthened the foundation of the Campaign in Europe, we must continue to push for answers and accountability. Push for activists in Europe to take their power as European citizens to hold their companies to account, and push them to force their governments, at national and EU level, to take responsibility for those corporations from whom they receive their tax.

1 Area 4 is operated by MRV, a joint venture company comprising ExxonMobil, Eni and CNPC, which holds a 70% interest in the concession for prospection and production in that area. Galp, KOGAS and Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos de Moçambique each hold 10% interest. ExxonMobil will lead the construction and operation of liquefied natural gas production facilities and related infrastructure on behalf of MRV, and Eni will lead the construction and operation of upstream infrastructure, extracting gas from offshore deposits and piping it to the plant.

2 The Area 1 block is operated by Anadarko Mozambique Area 1, Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Anadarko Petroleum group, with a 26.5% stake, ENH Rovuma Area One, a subsidiary of state-owned Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos, with 15%, Mitsui E&P Mozambique Area1 Ltd.(20%), ONGC Videsh Ltd. (10%), Beas Rovuma Energy Mozambique Limited (10%), BPRL Ventures Mozambique BV (10%), and PTTEP Mozambique Area 1 Limited (8.5%).

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Justica Ambiental’s intervention at Eni Annual General Meeting

14 June 2019

Rome

I represent an organisation called Justica Ambiental/Friends of the Earth Mozambique in maputo. Ive come quite a long way to ask Eni some questionsI will ask in particular questions about the onshore and offshore work in Area 1 and Area 4 of the Rovuma Basin in Mozambique, which includes the Coral Floating Liquid Natural Gas Project, and the Mozambique Liquid Natural Gas Project, and the offshore oil and gas exploration in Block ER236 off the South Coast of Durban in South Africa.

we want to give some context to the shareholders:

Although the extraction in Mozambique has not yet begun, already the project has taken land from thousands of local communities and forcefully removed them from their homes. We work with and visit most regularly the villages of Milamba. Senga and Quitupo. The project has taken away peoples agricultural land, and has instead provided them with compensatory land which is far from their homes and in many cases, inarable. Fishing communities which live within 100 metres of the sea are now being moved 10 km inland.

Furthermore, the noise from the drilling will chase fish away from the regular fishing area, and the drilling and dredging will raise mud from the seabed which will make fishing even more difficult with little visibility.

There is little to no information about the type of compensation people will receive. Communities think the ways in which peoples compensation has been measured and assessed is ridiculous. For example, the company assesses someones land by counting their belongings and compensating them financially for those goods. Another way is by counting the number of palm trees that one person has on their land. Most people have been given a standard size of land of 1 hectare. This is regardless of whether they currently have 1 hectare, 5 hectares, or even ten hectares.

80% of Mozambicans dont have access to electricity, and need energy to live dignified lives. Despite this incredibly low electricity rate, the LNG projects will not help Mozambique and its people benefit from its resources. Instead the LNG will be processes and exported to other countries, in particular Asia and Europe.

The projects will have a huge negative impact on the local environment, destroying areas of pristine coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass beds, including endangered flora and fauna in the Quirimbas Archipelago, a UNESCO Biosphere.

Mozambique is a country that is already facing the impacts of climate change. In the last two months, two cyclones hit the country hard, as we saw most recent with Cyclone Idai and Cyclone Kenneth that together killed over 600 people and affected at least 2 million.. The EIA admits that the contribution of the projects greenhouse gases to Mozambiques carbon emissions will be major.

This project will require a huge investment by the Mozambican government, which would be better spent on social programs and renewable energy development. The project itself will require an investment of up US$ 30 billion. This project will divert funds that should be going to education and other social necessities, including $2 billion that the World Bank estimates is necessary to rebuild the country after the cyclones, in order to build and maintain infrastructure needed for the gas projects.

Over the last year and a half, there as been a scourge of attacks on communities in the gas region, which many communities believe are linked to the gas projects because they only began once gas companies became visible. In order to ensure the security of the gas companies and contractors, the military has been deployed in the area and maintains a strong presence, and several foreign private security companies have been contracted by the companies.


SOUTH AFRICA

While the human rights and environmental violations against the people of the South Coast are many, the particular issue Id like to raise is that of the lack of meaningful public participation with the affected communities, who were totally excluded from the process.

Exclusivity of meetings:

Eni held a total of 5 meetings.

Three of them were at upper end hotels and country clubs in the middle class areas of Richards Bay, Port Shepstone and in Durban. This is extremely unrepresentative of the vast majority of people who will be affected, many of whom live in dire poverty: communities of as Kosi Bay, Sodwana Bay, St Lucia,, Hluluwe, Mtubatuba, Mtunzini, Stanger, Tongaat, La Mercy, Umdloti, Verulam, Umhlanga, Central Durban, Bluff, Merebank, Isipingo, Amanzimtoti, Illovu, Umkomaas, Ifafa Beach, Scottsburgh, Margate, Mtwalume, Port Edward and surrounding townships like Chatsworth, Inanda, Umlazi, Phoenix and KwaMakhuta. This is blatant social exclusion and discrimination.

During the two so-called public participation meetings with poorer communities in February and October 2018, attended by both Eni and consultants Environmental Resources Management, the majority of people affected were not invited. The meetings, held by Allesandro Gelmetti and Fabrizio Fecoraro were held in a tiny room with no chairs. Eni had not invited any government officials.

[Sasol head of group medial liaison Alex Anderson, confirming the meeting, said: Eni, our partner, is the operator and the entity managing this process. Sasol is committed to open and transparent engagement with all stakeholders on this project, as its an ongoing process over the coming year. We value the engagement and the feedback we receive, so that we consider stakeholder concerns into the development of the project.]

Eni says it dropped the finalised EIAs off at 5 libraries for the interested parties to read. However these libraries are difficult for most of the affected communities to travel to, and one of the libraries, Port Shepstone library, was in fact closed for renovations at the time.

QUESTIONS:

Civil society in Mozambique:

The response to our question was not answered, and I would like to reformulate it.

Is Eni working with any Mozambican organisations as part of its community engagement, and which are they?

Is Eni working with any organisations, Mozambican and from elsewhere, who are NOT paid by the company?

Reforestation:

Id like to quote an article in the FT article David Sheppard and Leslie Cook 15 March 2019- Eni to plant vast forest in push to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which says, I quote:

by planting trees which absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, companies like Eni are looking to offset their pollution that their traditional operations create.

Italian energy giant Eni will plant a forest 4 times the size of Wales as part of plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions

1. Does Eni dispute the truthfulness of the Financial Times article

Eni says that it has already begun the contract process with the governments of the countries in Southern Africa, where these forest projects will take place.

1. Has the company assessed whether there actually is 81 000 hectares of unused land available for this project?

2. Has Eni already held any public participation meetings with the communities who live on the land that will be used for ?

3. who is doing this assessment and when will it begin

4. how many communities and people will be affected?

EIA s:

1. In the case of Area 1, Eni responded that the responsibility for ongoing public participation with the communities of Cabo Delgado lies with Anadarko for the joint EIA. Does Eni confirm it is relying on another company to guarantee that its own project fulfills requirements for an EIA?

2. Also on Area 1, the last EIA was done in 2014? Why does Eni rely on an impact assessment that is 5 years old?

3. Eni has responded that it only concluded its EIA in 2014, but had already begun seismic studies in 2007 and prepared for exploration in 2010. Furthermore, Eni only received its license from the Mozambique government in 2015. This is a whole 8 years after it had begun seismic studies.

Why did Eni begin studies that affect the environment and people before completing an EIA?

Decarbonisation:

This question was not sufficiently answered: I have asked why Enis decarbonisation strategy does not align with its actions in Mozambique, where the EIA says, and I quote from Chapter 12: The project is expected to emit approximately 13 million tonnes of CO2 during full operation of 6 LNG trains.

By 2022 the project will increase the level of Mozambiques GHG emissions by 9.4%

The duration of the impact is regarded as permanent, as science has indicated that the persistence of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is said to range between 100 and 500 years, and therefore continues beyond the life of the project.

I ask again, how does this align with Enis decarbonisation strategy?

Private security:

1. Who is Eni using as their private security companies in Mozambique and in South Africa?

2. What was the legal process the company went through to contract these private security companies?

3. If any companies are not registered locally, what legal process did Eni go through to bring them to Mozambique and South Africa?

Contractors:

1. Will Eni provide us with a list of all their contractors in Mozambique and in South Africa?

2. if not why not?

Jobs in South Africa:

You have not answered our question here

How many jobs will Eni create at its operation in SA?

How many of these jobs will be paid by Eni?

Contract

I ask this in the name of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance. The organisation requested Eni to make available the contract signed with the Dept of Environmental Affairs and Petroleum Agency South Africa that gives Eni permission to conduct seismic testing. Eni has said no, because the right to the document lies with a contractor.

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Under Water

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