Access Now


#KeepItOn: the elections we're watching in 2024

Barely a month into a "make-or-break" year for democracy, we're already seeing new digital threats; from AI-generated deepfakes of U.S. President Biden fueling disinformation to Indonesia’s presidential hopeful Prabowo Subianto using TikTok to cover up his shady human rights record. We're also seeing the resurgence of internet shutdowns during elections; an attack on electoral integrity. With people in over 60 countries heading to the polls this year, 24 have imposed shutdowns in the past, billions are at risk of being disconnected, disenfranchised, and denied their right to participatory democracy if authorities fail to #KeepItOn. Check out our new #KeepItOn election watchlist for 2024 to see which countries we're monitoring and how to push back. Read more via Access Now

So far, not so good

Pakistan cuts connectivity on polling day

As we compiled Express this week, the news broke that Pakistan’s caretaker government had suspended mobile services on election day – ignoring civil society warnings against a shutdown. This decision is unacceptable and "discredits the integrity of Pakistan’s elections," says Felicia Anthonio, #KeepItOn Campaign Manager at Access Now. Join us in urging the government to restore access immediately. Read more via Access Now

Senegal cancels elections, blocks mobile internet access

Postponing elections is never a good sign for democracy, especially when it's followed by internet shutdowns. After Senegal’s incumbent government abruptly canceled the presidential elections scheduled for later this month, protests erupted across the country, and authorities responded by imposing a mobile internet shutdown. While connectivity has reportedly been restoredand a new election date announced, the government’s decision to disconnect people is likely to escalate, not quell, the ongoing political crisis. Read more via Access Now

Did Azerbaijan #KeepItOn?

While one election was postponed, another was brought forward. This week we're keeping an eye on Azerbaijan's snap presidential elections. While President Ilham Aliyev has claimed a landslide victory, there are accusations of widespread electoral fraud, and we are seeing early reports of localized internet outages from journalists trying to cover the election. We were afraid this might happen. Join us as we call for authorities to #KeepItOn. Read more via Access Now

Shutdowns = suffering

Sudan cuts connectivity as war rages on

Sudan is currently experiencing the largest internal displacement crisis in the world. Since conflict broke out in April 2023, more than 13,000 people have been killed, and another nine million have been forced to flee their homes. Now a near-total communications blackout is cutting people off from information about safe routes, access to emergency services, and even banking services to get their basic needs met. Read more via Access Now

Sudanese paramilitary forces are tweeting through ethnic cleansing

Even as people fleeing conflict suffer under the blackout, the Sudanese paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which have committed atrocities, are freely using X (formerly known as Twitter) to share videos and photos of their members distributing “humanitarian aid” and issuing “media statements” about their victories. WIRED digs into why this is happening. Read more via WIRED

One small step for accountability

U.S. toughens visa sanctions for spyware abuse

In a win for spyware accountability, the U.S. State Department has announced that the U.S. will deny visas to anyone involved in, facilitating, or profiting from spyware-related human rights violations. However, the U.S. government does not disclose the names of sanctioned individuals, and this could limit the program's “ability to deter individuals from bad behavior or set precedent, including in other jurisdictions, for future actions," explains Access Now's Rand Hammoud. Nonetheless, she says, the U.S. policy arsenal "lays out a potential roadmap for ending spyware abuse, which other governments should follow." Read more via Access Now

Buying spying: How the commercial surveillance industry works & what to do about it

A new report from Google’s Threat Analysis Group documents the rise of commercial surveillance vendors, shedding light on how the spyware industry threatens internet freedom and digital rights. Among the key findings: these professional hacking firms are behind more than half of all “zero day” exploits threatening Google products and Android devices. Read more via Google

ICYMI: How spyware crushes civic space in Jordan

Last week, we published our latest joint investigation into the use of NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware, documenting how the technology is used to censor, suppress, and silence journalists, activists, human rights lawyers, and civil society in Jordan. Read the press release or the full report.​​​​​​ Read more via Access Now

Defending the defenders

Hey, Big Tech: don't silence Russia’s pro-democracy voices

Sanctions are a tool to punish bad actors who violate human rights – but when tech companies over comply, they can end up silencing people, playing right into authoritarians' hands. New research from the International Republican Institute looks at how Big Tech’s compliance with Western sanctions against Russia have unintentionally hampered the work of independent media and civil society in the country. Read more via Atlantic Council

Your rights have no borders

Defending the rights of refugees & migrants in the digital age

Human rights are for everyone, and they don't disappear when you cross a border to reach safety. Yet governments around the world deploy technologies in asylum and migration management systems that put these rights at risk. Read Amnesty International's new primer on the use of these technologies and systems around the world, featuring insights on the impact of biometric systems from Access Now’s Marwa Fatafta. Read more via Amnesty International

The global battle against LGBTQ+ repression

As part of their efforts to protect human rights, UN special rapporteurs compile reports on rights violations and seek to set new, rights-respecting norms in countries around the world. To assist with that process, Access Now and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have teamed up to document and share information about the digital threats LGBTQ+ people face, including the rise in laws criminalizing LGBTQ+ expression, both online and off. Read the full UN submission. Read more via EFF

Opportunities and other highlights

We're hiring!

If you're energized by our global mission and want to help defend and extend digital rights, good news: we have five exciting openings. We're seeking a Communications and Media Manager (based anywhere, with preference for UTC+1 through UTC-5 time zones), a UN Advocacy Legal Intern (New York, hybrid), a Grantmaking Operations Manager (based anywhere, hybrid), a Grants and Contracts Accounting Manager (NYC, remote), and an In-House Legal Intern (Washington, DC, or NYC, hybrid). Learn more and apply! Learn more via Access Now

How RightsCon is evolving

Curious about how the next RightsCon summit is shaping up? We're excited to share the final installment of our Outcomes Report from RightsCon Costa Rica. Our team details what we've learned in our community consultations, and how we plan to make RightsCon South Korea (February 2025) a more equitable and engaging space for our community. Learn more via RightsCon