The overarching question imparting urgency to this exploration is: Can U.S.-Russian contention in cyberspace cause the two nuclear superpowers to stumble into war? In considering this question we were constantly reminded of recent comments by a prominent U.S. arms control expert: At least as dangerous as the risk of an actual cyberattack, he observed, is cyber operations’ “blurring of the line between peace and war.” Or, as Nye wrote, “in the cyber realm, the difference between a weapon and a non-weapon may come down to a single line of code, or simply the intent of a computer program’s user.”
With the rapid growth and reliance on technology for communication, community, resistance and love, comes the increase in the weaponization of tech against those most marginalized and disenfranchised. With this, we see in daily instances the impact of tech on historically oppressed and marginalized groups, especially as this tech is rarely, if ever, designed with them in mind. But, are there ways to reimagine how we design these technologies, away from “diversity and inclusivity” models, where technology is created by centering, not only including, those at the margins: By centering those most impacted from ideation to production, rather than attempting to address their needs after the products have been created. This event launches Design from the Margins (DFM), a guide and call for action on how to conduct the development and design processes from a human impact perspective by focusing on cases seen as “extremes”, “outliers” and “edge cases”. The goal of this framework is to reduce harms and human rights abuses carried through the weaponization of tech -- and increase protections. It is a method established on existing implementation and impact.
With an understanding of who is most impacted by social, political and legal frameworks – often the most criminalized – we can also understand who is most likely to be a victim of the weaponization of certain technologies: these are the decentered cases we must make central in all of our communication technology processes if we have any chance of mitigating immense tech-related harms proliferating around the world. This event brings together experts to look at the effects of technology in contexts it was not designed for, especially how western-centrism impacts vulnerable and/or hard-to-reach communities and suggest methods such as Design From the Margins as a vital way to mitigate risks.
On this panel, TAPP fellow Afsaneh Rigot, Director of Grindr for Equality Jack Harrison-Quintana, WhatsApp Policy Manager Kathryn Harnett, and Assistant Director or Harvard’s Cyberlaw Clinic and Board member of the Global Network Initiative, Jessica Fjeld discuss the findings of the newly released Digital Crime Scenes: The Role of Digital Evidence in the Persecution of LGBTQ People in Egypt, Lebanon, and Tunisia and the Design From the Margins methodology by Afsaneh Rigot. The session is moderated by Kendra Albert, clinical instructor at the Cyberlaw Clinic.
The Digital Crime Scenes report documents decentered cases and the ways in which evidence from our major technologies (including WhatsApp and Grindr) have been used by law enforcement in Egypt, Lebanon, and Tunisia against LGBTQ people - for monitoring, arrests, torture, and prosecutions. An operationalized system has been used to prosecute private, intimate, and delicate parts of life, such as sexual identity by combining manual policing with new technologies. Impacted communities and legal defense teams inundated with such cases are calling for harm reduction methods to keep those most marginalized safer by reducing the amount of evidence that can be amassed against people.
Grindr and WhatsApp have already commenced implementing changes based on recommendations from this report and previous work in line with DFM, because when those most marginalized are designed for, all will benefit. Can we go further, and can other corporate actors center needs of their most marginalized, especially those outside EU/US as opposed to their “main use cases”?
Kendra Albert (they/them), Clinical Instructor at the Cyberlaw Clinic
Kendra is a public interest technology lawyer with a special interest in computer security law and freedom of expression. They serve as a clinical instructor at the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard Law School, where they teach students to practice law by working with pro bono clients. Kendra is also the founder and director of the Initiative for a Representative First Amendment.
Jack Harrison-Quintana (he/him), Director of Grindr for Equality
Jack is a queer Mexican-American activist, writer, and researcher, currently serving as the director of Grindr for Equality (G4E). At Grindr, Jack harnesses the power of the world’s largest network of gay, bi, and trans people to promote LGBTQ health and human rights in nearly two hundred countries. For his work with the app, Jack has been honored as one of Fast Company’s 2016 Most Creative People in Business and Foreign Policy’s 2016 Global Thinkers.
Before Grindr, Jack was the director of the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Policy Institute, where he co-authored the landmark study, Injustice At Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. He has also worked at the Global Trans Research and Advocacy Project (GTRAP), the National Center for Transgender Equality, Khemara Cambodia.
Kathryn Harnett (she/her), WhatsApp Policy Manager
Kathryn Harnett is the Public Policy Manager for WhatsApp covering Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. In this role, she advocates for strong privacy, safety, and security protections for WhatsApp users and represents WhatsApp around the region. Before joining WhatsApp, Kathryn worked for consulting firms, advising technology companies and private individuals on reputation, strategy, and public policy.
Jessica Fjeld (she/they), Assistant Director or Harvard’s Cyberlaw Clinic and Board member of the Global Network Initiative
Jessica is a Lecturer on Law and the Assistant Director of the Cyberlaw Clinic at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.
She focuses her legal practice on issues impacting digital media and art, including intellectual property, and freedom of expression, privacy, and related human rights issues. Recently, she has emphasized work with the responsible deployment of artificial intelligence; AI-generated art; and legal issues confronted by digital archives. She is a member of the board of the Global Network Initiative, a multi-stakeholder organization the protects and advances user freedom of expression and privacy around the world.
Afsaneh Rigot (she/her), Technology and Public Purpose Fellow
Afsaneh (she/her) is a researcher, practitioner, and advocate covering law, technology, LGBTQ, refugee, and broader human rights issues. She is a 2021-2022 fellow with the Technology and Public Purpose (TAPP) at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. She is also a senior researcher at ARTICLE 19 focusing on the Middle East and North African (MENA) human rights issues and international corporate responsibility; an Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Centre (BKC) at Harvard and an advisor at the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard University.