What is at stake for human rights in the design of Internet protocols?

This article was originally published on the Kennedy School Review on May 13, 2019.

Sudanese Americans rally outside the White House in Washington, Saturday, June 8, 2019, in solidarity with Pro-democracy protests in Sudan. Image Credit: AP. From: Sudan protesters try to rekindle movement. Grapple with power outage, blocked internet and heightened security – Gulf News.

Over the last decade, political and legislative bodies have started to codify the relationship between the Internet and human rights. In 2012, the Human Rights Council (HRC) of the United Nations adopted a resolution to protect the free speech of individuals on the Internet–the first UN resolution of its kind. In 2014, a UN General Assembly resolution called on states to “respect and protect the right to privacy” in the digital age. These efforts have mostly focused on safeguarding human rights online from a legal and regulatory perspective. However, they did not consider how the development and governance of the Internet infrastructure can affect the rights of Internet users.

A critical component of this infrastructure are Internet protocols, which define the rules and conventions for communication between networks. By enabling and controlling the exchange of information at a global scale, protocols have the potential for far-reaching economic and social consequences.

This article will provide an introduction to Internet protocols, explain how their design can affect the rights of global users, and describe possible paths to a human rights enabling approach for developing and maintaining the Internet infrastructure.

Continue reading What is at stake for human rights in the design of Internet protocols?

Censoring dissent. How the mourning over activist Liu Xiaobo’s death is being erased from the internet

Liu Xiao Bo – Ai Weiwei

On July 13 2017, activist, writer and Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo passed away in government custody.

He advocated for non-violent action, participated in the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests, and helped to draft and gather support for Charter 08, a call for peaceful political reform and an end to one-party rule. He spent almost a quarter of his life behind bars in China for advocating human rights and democracy.

Once the news of his death became public, one related phenomenon started to be reported. References to Liu Xiaobo, his work, and his passing were being censored on social media in China more harshly than ever before. Continue reading Censoring dissent. How the mourning over activist Liu Xiaobo’s death is being erased from the internet

Newsletter #35: Decolonizing

Newsletter #35: sent!
(and archived if you missed it)

Doing: I published a reading list on the concept of decolonizing technology, and curated a collection of articles to celebrate Chelsea Manning’s release.

Linking to: the antidote to authoritarianism; your face, encrypted; makeup vloggers protesting capitalism; a made up FOIA tutorial vlog; Kara Walker’s next act; Missy Elliott and Mary J. Blige.

If you are not yet a subscriber: subscribe now!

Fighting forward: A reading list in honor of Chelsea Manning

“I keep fighting to warn the world of the dangerous trend in which the only information you can access is the kind that someone with money or power wants you to see.” Why I keep fighting – Chelsea Manning

Chelsea Manning is a transgender woman, transparency activist and acclaimed whistleblower.

She was sentenced in 2013 to serve 35 years in prison for disclosing military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks. On January 17, 2017, all but four months of her remaining prison sentence were commuted. She will now be released from prison on May 17, 2017 rather than in 2045.

Chelsea Manning – Molly Crabapple Continue reading Fighting forward: A reading list in honor of Chelsea Manning

Decolonizing technology: A reading list

Western culture has long been defining how the world came to existence, its history, and how it works from a perspective which is centred on a Western and white point of view. While this specific paradigm has been the dominant position of power, others have been hegemonized by it, their cultures and experiences dismissed and excluded.

AFRO CYBER RESISTANCE – Tabita Rezaire. Continue reading Decolonizing technology: A reading list

Newsletter #31: Opposition

Newsletter #31: sent!
(and archived if you missed it)

Doing: publishing a list of anti-surveillance and anti-censorship projects to support and donate to; listening to and learning from the history of the Black Panthers in Oakland; discovering activist libraries and bookstores in London.

Linking to: digital redlining, spies on Tinder, protest, treason, the revolutionary life of Lucy Parsons, a beauty guide to fight fascism, Nicole Milfie, Princess Nokia, Ms Roboto, Rihanna.

If you are not yet a subscriber: subscribe now!

Anti-surveillance and anti-censorship projects to support and donate to

Browsing the internet, sending an email, texting, making a call, reading the news – these are actions that many people around the world want and need to do every day. Depending on the society we live in, and what our demographics represent to the entities exercising legislative or economical power on it, these tasks can seem mundane, be potentially harmful, or made impossible.

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-12-46-00Protesters documenting a #BlackLivesMatter demonstration. From How women are leading the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Text and picture by Jihan Hafiz. Aljazeera America.

Continue reading Anti-surveillance and anti-censorship projects to support and donate to

Targeted surveillance, overpolicing and technology for resistance

On the upgrades of centuries-old systems of oppression and present-day tools to fight back

Yemeni women during a rally commemorating the fifth anniversary of the 2011 Arab Spring uprising. Taez, February 2016. AFP / Ahmad Al-Basha.

Globally, law enforcement agencies are adopting increasingly sophisticated surveillance technologies to employ predictive policing and monitor already overpoliced communities and demographics. Prevalent grounds for discriminatory conduct are race, class, citizenship, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation.

We hear from the news about phone interceptions, seized devices, hacked accounts. But most often, the civil society is provided with small to no information about how far these monitoring activities go.

How is technology employed to control targeted groups? And how can technology support who’s controlled to reclaim and protect their rights?

Continue reading Targeted surveillance, overpolicing and technology for resistance

Digital civil disobedience: tactics, tools and future threads

Protests, uprising and unrest are key elements of freedom of expression, contributing to the shape of society and public debate through history.
Over the centuries, individuals and groups have adopted countless tactics to reclaim rights and fight for justice – changing over time, transforming strategically according to different historical and political contexts.

What’s the current state of the art? Which are the tools adopted by protesters to raise awareness, unrest and mobilise?
Technology has entered the the world of activism, and we can recognise forms of protests which combine offline and online elements, as well as expressions of dissent which exclusively operate in the digital space.
This article aims to provide an overview of how digital civil disobedience looks like today, observe which tactics are in use and consider a possible path to develop the future tools which will help global citizens reclaim their rights.

Continue reading Digital civil disobedience: tactics, tools and future threads

Menstruation matters


Today is May 28 – happy Menstrual Hygiene Day!

For the occasion, I wrote an article about menstrual hygiene rights and you can read it here.

I am very excited to see a piece I wrote published by Bitch Media, one of my favourite media outlets (both in print and online!) and I’m particularly grateful to Sarah Mirk, Bitch’s online editor, for her invitation to write for it and for the opportunity to focus on this topic.

Menstrual hygiene is a critical human right and menstrual education is essential not only for those who menstruate, but for all human beings. So, everyone is invited to read and celebrate – today and all year long!