Human rights and Facebook

Since 2014, I have worked on a series of reporting and research projects exploring how Facebook’s predominance as a platform for online speech affects human rights around the world. At Global Voices, I have worked with teams from India, Iran, Pakistan, Palestine, Hong Kong and Myanmar to document how conflict and threats of violence can escalate from Facebook and result in real-life harm targeting ethnic minorities and human rights advocates.

In 2017, I led a cross-regional investigation of Facebook’s Free Basics program, a mobile app-based initiative intended to serve as an “on-ramp” to the global internet for people in developing in countries by giving them access to a handful of websites and services, including Facebook. Our team of six Global Voices contributors conducted case studies in Colombia, Ghana, Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan and the Philippines measuring the application against usability and open internet benchmarks. We found that the app collected ample user data (often in countries with no data protection laws), failed to meet the linguistic needs of local populations, offered limited/no access (results varied from country to country) to local independent news sources and left users uniquely vulnerable to disinformation campaigns.

Our work was featured in news stories by The Guardian and Al Jazeera, among others, and in an opinion piece that I wrote for the New York Times.



Internet access in Cuba

I traveled to Cuba for the first time in 2004, where I spent a semester studying at the University of Havana. Since then I have returned multiple times as a researcher, and developed many wonderful relationships with Cuban bloggers and technology experts, as well as scholars abroad who share my interest in digital communication and the information economy of the island.

In 2009, I began researching internet use and blogging in Cuba for my MA thesis at the University of Chicago’s Center for Latin American Studies. I spent several weeks in Havana interviewing bloggers, journalists, and academics about their perceptions of the impact of blogs and digital culture in Cuba. I learned a lot, and left the island with much more material than I could ever incorporate into a single paper. My now-dormant blog, Half-wired, became a repository for those ideas and stories that were rattling around in my head , but never made it into my formal research.

More recently, I’ve conducted research and reported on media freedom issues, the development of network infrastructure in the country, and US government efforts to intervene in Cuban affairs through technology.

I’ve spoken about technology and Cuba at the University of Chicago’s Harris School for Public Policy Studies, Harvard Law School, the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy and on PRI’s The World.

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