Access Now


Why Meta revisiting its hate speech policy on Zionism is (still) a bad idea

This week, the UN Security Council finally passed a resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. With no signs of the conflict stopping, casualties continue to climb at a horrific rate. In this context, Meta is once again considering imposing stricter limits on use of the word “Zionist” across its platforms. But as Access Now’s Marwa Fatafta explains in our latest post, that risks shutting down legitimate online discourse and fueling censorship. “Meta must distinguish between speech that targets ideas or ideologies, which is protected even when offensive, and speech that incites hostility, hatred, and discrimination against human beings,” she writes. Read more via Access Now

The language of discrimination

Good news: Meta’s Oversight Board rejects blanket ban on “shaheed”

The Oversight Board that advises Meta on content moderation decisions has issued an opinion on the company’s total ban of the Arabic-language term “shaheed,” a term that translates to “martyr” but has various meanings depending on context. The board found that the ban significantly limits free expression and disproportionately impacts Arabic and Muslim voices. It recommends that Meta overhaul its policy, a move we strongly support. This is “an opportunity to address its deeply problematic track record in moderating Arabic content,” says Aymen Zaghdoudi, MENA Senior Policy Counsel at Access Now. Read more via Access Now

How Meta’s ban on “shaheed” led to broad censorship

Access Now’s Marwa Fatafta talks to Rest of World about why banning a single word has silenced so many people. “At least in the Palestine context, you refer to anyone killed by the Israeli army as ‘shaheed’ — or anyone killed in an act of political violence,” she explains. Since simply talking about the victims in Gaza would be difficult without using that word, Meta’s policy has led to automated, over-broad content removal, resulting in what Fatafta calls the “stigmatization of Arabic populations.” Read more via Rest of World

Holding Big Tech accountable

Genocide in the digital age: What role do social media companies play?

Despite its duty to respect human rights, Meta continues to ignore the hard questions U.S. lawmakers and others are asking about its content moderation policies and censorship of Palestinian and pro-Palestinian content during the unfolding genocide in Gaza. And it isn’t the only company evading scrutiny. In a new piece for the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), Marwa Fatafta explores “the role, responsibilities, or even the complicity” social media platforms may have when their services are used to incite violence or genocide. Read more via APC

LISTEN: “Online platforms’ accountability during armed conflict”

How should digital platforms respond to conflict and war? What are their responsibilities under international law? Access Now’s Eliška Pírková, Anastasiya Zhyrmont, and Marwa Fatafta recently joined researcher Dr. Talita Dias from Chatham House and ARTICLE 19’s Chantal Joris for a discussion on X about what’s necessary to avoid complicity in international crimes and keep people safe, drawing on examples from Ukraine, Gaza, and elsewhere. If you missed it, you can listen to the recording here. Tune in via Access Now

READ: “The impact of X platform’s content moderation policies on Palestinian digital rights”

A new report from 7amleh looks at how X has tackled hate speech, incitement to violence, and disinformation since tech billionaire Elon Musk took control, documenting the impact on Palestinians and offering recommendations for upholding human rights. Read more via 7amleh

The changing face of surveillance

How governments use facial recognition for protest surveillance

The right to assemble peacefully is enshrined in human rights law. But while protesters have historically relied on large crowds for anonymity and “safety in numbers,” today’s facial recognition tech can enable authorities to identify and single people out for repercussions. Rest of World explores how the use of this technology, including so-called emotion recognition tech, impacts movements around the world. “The criminalization of emotions is going down a very dark road,” says Daniel Leufer, Senior Policy Analyst at Access Now. Read more via Rest of World

False positives, real consequences

Facial recognition systems not only invade privacy, they often deliver false positives. Error rates are particularly high for women, Black people, elderly people, and ethnic minorities. Our new guide, Manual del Pequeñx Vigiladx (in Spanish), is aimed at helping Latin American victims who have been misidentified as criminals and wrongfully detained navigate the judicial system and seek redress. It was developed in collaboration with the Coordinator against Police and Institutional Repression in Argentina (CORREPI). To learn more about why we created the guide, watch our launch video (in Spanish). Read more via Access Now

Israel deploys expansive facial recognition program in Gaza

In Gaza, a false positive could be deadly. According to an investigation by The New York Times, even Israeli intelligence officers are concerned that the facial recognition technology that is being used at checkpoints across the Gaza Strip is misidentifying civilians, such as renowned Palestinian poet Mosab Abu Toha, as people who have ties to Hamas. Read more via The New York Times

Defending the defenders

U.S. launches guidance for protecting human rights defenders online

Around the world, human rights defenders (HRDs) face increasing spyware attacks, gender-based violence, doxxing, and censorship online, often in regions that digital platforms fail to properly resource. Responding to civil society’s long-standing demands that governments and platforms support and protect those fighting for basic human rights, the U.S. Department of State has launched new guidance for online platforms to more effectively identify, mitigate, and provide access to remedy for digital attacks targeting HRDs, building on previous joint U.S.-E.U. recommendations. Bravo! Read more via U.S. Department of State

Opportunities and other highlights

FINAL CALL: Apply to be our next Executive Director

The deadline for applying to join Access Now as our next Executive Director is this Sunday March 31. So if you are (or you know) a highly capable, intuitive leader with lived experience and/or extensive knowledge of the issues to which Access Now is committed, don’t miss your last chance to apply! Apply via Access Now

LISTEN: “Africa calling all voters”

Of the 20+ African countries holding elections year, many are on the #KeepItOn Election Watch list for possible internet shutdown. But as Access Now’s Brett Solomon discusses in the latest episode of the This Week in Cyberspace podcast, efforts to #KeepItOn have taken a massive step forward, as civil society groups including Paradigm Initiative successfully advocated for an ACHPR resolution condemning internet shutdowns during elections in Africa. Tune in to learn more about the status of digital rights in this crucial year for democracy in Africa. Listen via This Week in Cyberspace