Access Now


Palestine unplugged: how Israel disrupts Gaza’s internet

In the space of one month, Israel’s attacks on Gaza have killed more than 10,300 people, including over 4,200 children. Thousands more have been injured and 1.5 million people have been forcibly displaced. As Palestinians in Gaza continue to suffer unimaginable horrors and the lack of water, food, electricity, and fuel, they are also being cut off from each other and the world. Access Now’s new report exposes how Israel controls Palestinians’ internet and telecommunications access, wielding internet shutdowns as “weapons of war to suppress Palestinian voices, as well as coverage of war crimes and atrocities on the ground.” Read our press release and full reportRead more via Access Now

Digital ceasefire now

EFF warns against using internet access as a geopolitical bargaining chip

In situations of crisis and conflict, internet connectivity is a lifeline – and digital rights need to be protected in times of war, as well as peace. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Corynne McSherry and Paige Collings explain, Israel destroying infrastructure and shutting down the internet in Gaza not only further jeopardizes the safety of Palestinians, it also sets a dangerous authoritarian precedent. We echo EFF’s call for Israel to cease interfering with Gaza’s telecommunications infrastructure, as we continue to call for an immediate “digital ceasefire” to protect Palestinians. Read more via EFF

Stop dehumanizing and silencing Palestinian voices

Even as Israel deploys internet shutdowns to cut off Gazans and hide the reality of what is happening from the world, the content on social media platforms like Meta is stoking anti-Palestinian sentiment. In response to a prompt for “Palestinian,” WhatsApp’s AI image generator created emojis of gun-wielding children. Meanwhile, Instagram automatically added the word “terrorist” to the bios of several Palestinian users. Racist, inflammatory speech and incitement to violence against Palestinians is contributing to real-world harms. 7amleh - The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media and the Palestinian Digital Rights Coalition are calling on Meta to stop dehumanizing and stifling Palestinian voices on its platforms. Read more via 7amleh

How to stay safe online during the conflict in Gaza

Amid escalating violence in Gaza, it’s becoming harder than ever for Palestinians to get their stories out to the world. Members of the Palestinian, Jewish, and other communities continue to speak out against Israel’s indiscriminate attacks against civilians, calling for an end to the bloodshed and illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip. But these same people are facing repressive tactics and censorship, online and off. If you’re one of them, Access Now and SMEX have put together a digital resilience tip sheet to help you stay safe. Please share widely. Read more via Access Now

Stop the spying

How Europe became the Wild West of spyware

POLITICO looks at how the E.U.’s lax approach to regulating spyware manufacturers has led to a proliferation of companies selling invasive surveillance technology to governments across the continent, enabling attackers to spy on everyone from opposition politicians in Greece, to mayors in Poland, to journalists and human rights defenders. While the U.S. has banned federal use of commercial spyware, and blocklisted companies including NSO Group and some companies of Intellexa, the firm currently embroiled in the Predator Files scandal, the E.U. has been slow to act, and has even resisted efforts to ban spyware use against journalists. As this piece shows, this is only emboldening spyware companies to keep marketing their tools in Europe. Read more via POLITICO

Apple warns Armenians of state-sponsored hacking attempts

In recent weeks, a number of people in Armenia have received threat notifications from Apple, warning that their devices may have been targeted for a state-sponsored attack. This is part of a wider trend of increasing spyware infections in Armenia. Earlier this year, a joint investigation between Access Now, CyberHUB-AM, Citizen Lab, and Amnesty International uncovered that civil society is being targeted with NSO Group’s Pegasus amid the military conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan. This was the first documented evidence of the use of Pegasus spyware in an international war context. Speaking to The Record about the Apple threat notifications, Access Now’s Natalia Krapiva notes that “the likely suspect is Azerbaijan.” Read more via The Record

FAQ: Access Now’s Digital Security Helpline and Apple threat notifications

When Apple sends notifications to people who may have been targeted for spyware attacks, it lists Access Now’s Digital Security Helpline as a civil society resource. The company also links to other external resources, such as the Consumer Reports Security Planner, on its website, to help people who may be under attack. Our new FAQ explains what the Helpline is and how it operates, clarifying our relationship to the Apple threat notifications. Read more via Access Now

Indian journalist targeted with NSO spyware, anti-corruption group says

Anand Mangnal, an Indian journalist who works for Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), is among those who received an Apple threat notification in the company’s most recent wave of alerts. Now a forensic examination of his phone has reportedly confirmed that government-backed hackers tried to plant NSO Group spyware on the device. While an Apple notification does not reveal who is behind an attack, use of the tool against a journalist is "unacceptable and outrageous," says OCCRP co-founder Drew Sullivan. Read more via Reuters

Democracy needs privacy: ban rights-violating spyware in India now

The confirmation that NSO Group spyware is being used in India demonstrates once again the urgent need to rein in invasive surveillance technology. Access Now is calling on Indian authorities to initiate an immediate independent inquiry, ban the use of rights-abusing commercial spyware, and commit to reforming India’s surveillance laws. Access Now’s Raman Jit Singh Chima warns that “no meaningful action has been taken” against spyware abuse, noting that “Accountability is the first necessary step to stop India’s descent into a surveillance state.” Read more via Access Now

Combating terrorism ≠ giving up rights

The E.U. terrorist content regulation is dangerous

It’s been two years since the E.U.’s regulation for preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online (TERREG) came into force – posing significant threats to online freedom of expression and access to information. Under TERREG, any E.U. Member State can order any website or social media platform to block alleged terrorist content within one hour, without the need for prior independent judicial review. Access Now, along with five other civil society organizations, have filed a complaint to oppose France’s decree implementing TERREG on the basis that it is incompatible with the E.U. Charter of Fundamental Rights. We demand that France first request a preliminary ruling from the Court of Justice of the E.U. “Fighting terrorism by jeopardizing the freedom of expression of millions across the E.U. is not a trade that should be made (...) Human rights must come first,” warns Access Now Eliška Pírková. Read more via Access Now

No one should normalize this

How TikTok pushes kids towards content that harms their mental health

New research conducted by Amnesty International in partnership with the Algorithmic Transparency Institute and AI Forensics has found that TikTok’s content recommender system and its invasive data collection practices are exposing children and teens who use the platform to depressive and suicidal content, that risk worsening existing mental health challenges. This includes showing multiple recommended videos in a single hour romanticizing, normalizing, or encouraging suicide. The research also highlights the wildly varying protections for children’s rights in countries around the world, which leave children and young people vulnerable to exploitative data collection practices. Read more via Amnesty International

Make your voice heard on U.S. AI policy

The Biden administration has released its first-ever draft policy guidance on the use of AI by the U.S. government. It’s now open for public comment. Learn more and weigh in here. Read more via U.S. government

Opportunities and other highlights

ENGAGE: Building the future of RightsCon together

As part of ongoing efforts to reshape the RightsCon summit series as a safer, more caring, and more inclusive space, Access Now’s RightsCon team is organizing a series of community consultations to gather feedback and suggestions for the future of RightsCon. Upcoming community calls will focus on mitigating barriers to travel (still open for participants in Latin America) and rethinking participant experiences. Find out more about the different ways to engage. Read more via Access Now

RSVP: How to fight internet shutdowns in court

As part of its Internet Shutdown Academy program, e-learning platform Advocacy Assembly is hosting a panel discussion on Tuesday November 14, focusing on how strategic litigation can help fight internet shutdowns. Featuring Access Now’s own Natalia Krapiva, the session will explore recent cases, including several rulings by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court. If you are a legal advocate keen to learn how to build and take a case against shutdowns to court, or how to push for proactive legislation against shutdowns, RSVP here. Learn more via Advocacy Assembly