Access Now


Gaza’s internet lifeline must be restored

As we prepared this newsletter, time ran out for connectivity in Gaza. After 40+ days of ever-escalating conflict, including attacks on schools, hospitals, and refugee camps, what remained of Gaza’s telecommunications network was running on fumes. Without the necessary fuel, the Gaza Strip went dark, leaving millions cut off from each other and the world. The result will be “more chaos, destruction, and human suffering of an unspeakable scale,“ says Access Now’s Marwa Fatafta. Join our call for an immediate physical and digital ceasefire, and demand that Israeli authorities and all involved parties act now to restore access and #KeepGazaConnected. Read more via Access Now

Dig deeper

Paltel responds on Gaza connectivity disruptions

Last week, Access Now and Human Rights Watch wrote to Paltel Group, parent company of Palestinian internet providers PalTel, Jawwal, and Hadara, to ask for information about disruptions to Gaza’s information and communication channels. They’ve now replied, detailing how Israel has repeatedly cut off their services over the past month – attributing many disruptions to Israel’s relentless attacks and Paltel’s inability to safely assess or repair the damage without a ceasefire. Read our full letter and Paltel’s response. Read more via Access Now

ICYMI: How Israel is shutting down Gaza’s internet

To learn more about how Israel controls connectivity in the Gaza Strip, read our latest report with SMEX: Palestine unplugged: how Israel disrupts Gaza’s internet. We look at how, in October alone, 15 of the 19 internet service providers operating in Gaza experienced complete internet shutdowns – directly affecting close to half a million people in Gaza and the West Bank. Read more via Access Now

The censorship machine during war

Digital blackout: systematic censorship of Palestinian voices

In recent weeks, we've seen an increase in social media platforms silencing, censoring, and deplatforming Palestinian voices and wider, pro-Palestinian expressions of support. Tracking such instances in a new piece for Global Voices, Palestinian lawyer and researcher Dima Samaro warns that “social media platforms’ disproportionate, biased, and restrictive content moderation” is worsening the situation on the ground in Gaza, directly contradicting “the platforms’ claimed role of connecting people, particularly during times of war.” Read more via Global Voices

How platforms can protect human rights in times of crisis

Social media and messaging apps are vital tools for people in times of war, conflict, and crisis – but governments and other actors use these same platforms to spread disinformation and hate speech, incite violence, and discredit people speaking out against war crimes and atrocities. It’s critical that the tech sector prevents further damage to human rights stemming from the use of their platforms. Read the Declaration of principles for content and platform governance in times of crisis for guidelines on protecting human rights before, during, and after a crisis. Read more via Access Now

AI flaws & laws

AI: Which rules do the top tech moguls want?

The E.U. is currently trying to finalize its long-awaited AI Act. The U.S. administration recently published an Executive Order to establish new standards for AI safety and security. But what kind of regulatory action is Big Tech pushing for? Deutsche Welle looks at how prominent corporate voices are shaping the conversation, some of whom Access Now’s Daniel Leufer warns are successfully “diverting attention from the technology we're dealing with at the moment to things that are quite speculative and often in the realm of science fiction," despite the fact that “they should absolutely not be the ones who are dictating policy." Read more via Deutsche Welle

Does AI lead police to ignore contradictory evidence?

We’ve been working to raise awareness about how law enforcement’s reliance on flawed and biased AI-powered facial recognition systems can result in wrongful arrests, especially for Black people, women, and elderly people. Yet as this New Yorker piece confirms, many police officers are still so convinced of AI’s efficacy that they treat any identity match as sacrosanct — in some cases, even going so far as to ignore any evidence that contradicts it. Read more via The New Yorker

WATCH: The intersection of U.S. privacy and AI regulation

As policymakers around the world discuss how to regulate AI technologies, civil society continues to push for a human rights-centric approach. Speaking at a New America panel earlier this week, Access Now’s Willmary Escoto argued that adopting federal privacy rules is a prerequisite for addressing AI risks in the U.S. Watch the video to learn more. Watch now via New America

Surveillance sneaks along

Coalition warns U.S. Congress: don’t use legislative tricks to reauthorize surveillance abuse

Over this past weekend the news broke that some U.S. Senators were trying to sneak reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) into an unrelated government spending bill. But the FBI and other federal authorities have routinely abused Section 702 to violate people’s fundamental civil liberties — from protesters and racial justice advocates to members of Congress. We joined 20 other civil society organizations in a letter urging Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to reject this sneak attack on our rights. “The record of abuse is glaringly apparent,” says Access Now’s Willmary Escoto. “We need urgent reforms, not a blank check renewal of unwarranted intrusions into our privacy.” Read more via Access Now

How Chinese firm linked to repression of Uyghurs aids Israeli surveillance in West Bank

The Israeli government has a track record of developing and testing out oppressive surveillance technology on Palestinians. The Guardian looks at a recent Amnesty International report investigating Israel’s use of surveillance tech from Hikvision, the Chinese firm accused of facilitating rights abuses perpetrated against the Uyghur ethnic minority in China. As recently as last month, Hikvision was found to be marketing its portfolio of “ethnic minority detection technology.” According to Amnesty’s investigation, there are dozens of Hikvision surveillance cameras in East Jerusalem. Israeli authorities could still be using them to monitor and track Palestinians. Read more via The Guardian

LISTEN: The information war in Gaza

Access Now’s Marwa Fatafta joined host Paris Marx for this week’s episode of the Tech Won’t Save Us podcast to discuss how Israeli surveillance tech is tested on PalestiniansListen via Tech Won't Save Us

No bans, no blocks

Nepal must lift its TikTok ban

This week, Nepal became the latest country to fully ban the social media platform TikTok, citing hate speech and threats to “social harmony.” This follows bans or restrictions in India, Iran, and Somalia, as well as states in the U.S. and other countries. While TikTok should be held accountable for its data protection, content moderation, and cybersecurity practices, a full block is disproportionate and represents a gross violation of freedom of expression. “[Nepal’s] TikTok ban highlights the worrying authoritarian trend of governments undermining democratic processes and seeking to control and limit people’s outlets of free speech with impunity,” says Access Now’s Shruti Narayan. We urge the government to reverse the ban immediatelyRead more via Access Now

Is Kenya blocking Telegram?

As we prepare this newsletter, we are investigating reports that Kenya is blocking Telegram, coinciding with exams — violating Kenyans' human rights, perpetuating a harmful trend, and setting a terrible precedent in the country. If you or your community are impacted, here are recommended tools for circumventing the block. Read more via Access Now

Opportunities and other highlights

DISCOVER: Meet the RightsCon community

As the end of the year approaches and we reflect on 2023, the RightsCon team is celebrating and elevating the global communities whose participation made RightsCon Costa Rica — our largest-ever summit on human rights and technology — successful. Learn more in the first part of our three-part Outcomes Report. Read more via Access Now

VOTE: Proton’s 2023 Lifetime Fundraiser open for nominations

Every year, Proton’s Lifetime Account Charity Fundraiser raises funds for nonprofits that share their mission of making the internet a better place for everyone. Last year, we were one of the recipients, for which we are extremely grateful. If you'd like to nominate one or multiple organizations to receive support from Proton, fill out this form by November 18. Read more via Proton