Using flickr as a participatory tool to expose perpetrators of human rights violations

Egyptian bloggers started Piggipedia, a flickr “group pool” where activists could post pictures to identify and expose security officials suspected of committing crimes against civilians.

Excessive use of force and torturing of civilians were common practices of the Egyptian security forces before the 2011 revolution. There are numerous examples of police brutally dismantling protests and conducting mass arrests of protesters without accountability. In 2008, Egyptian blogger Hossam el-Hamalawy started Piggipedia. The flickr site was part of a decade-long online campaign against torture that started with a blog, for a time the only credible source of torture incidents in Egypt.

Flickr is a popular online photo management and sharing application. Piggipedia’s “group pool” format allowed subscribers to post pictures to it. The page was spread among Egyptian activists and human rights defenders and was frequently updated with pictures and information regarding police officers involved in crimes. Many of the pictures were taken by activists themselves, but some came from newspapers and other media.

Pictures from newspapers and other media sources caused Piggipedia users some problems because flickr requires all pictures posted to have been taken by their uploaders. Any picture that was not taken by the person who posted it was in violation of flickr’s terms of use and was removed. Egyptian activists worked around this problem by posting this content to, a similar photo sharing site that lacks some of flickr’s features but has different terms of use.

Not all photos posted to Piggipedia are of policemen who were proven to have committed crimes. Activists post all pictures so that victims who otherwise wouldn’t have an opportunity to do so are able to recognize their perpetrators. In this way Piggipedia replaces secrecy with public scrutiny, using the Internet to resist oppression and impunity and pave the way for accountability.

Piggipedia helped raise awareness about torture and the gravity of the crimes committed by security officials and helped raise public opinion among Egyptians against these practices. The flickr page remained active after the revolution, since little has been done since to confront violence against civilians.

New Tactics in Human Rights does not advocate for or endorse specific tactics, policies or issues.

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What we can learn from this tactic: 

This tactic is notable in its ability to bring together many people with a similar goal who without the internet would be unable to organize and coordinate their efforts. Organizations with activists separated by large distances or handicapped by political situations that make physical meetings dangerous could benefit from using sites such as flickr or other social media platforms. Activists should be careful, however, to always respect the terms of use of any social media site. They should also be aware of any internet monitoring that a country may be doing so as not to put themselves in danger because of what they post.