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Afsaneh Rigot is a researcher with years of experience covering law, technology, LGBTQ, refugee, and human rights issues.

Currently, she works with ARTICLE 19 on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regional issues. She is also a 2021-2022 fellow with the Technology and Public Purpose (TAPP) at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. During her TAPP fellowship, Afsaneh will further develop her methodology and concept using experiences and knowledge in implementing company change with those most impacted-centered. She looks to redefine how we design our major communication tools through, what she calls “designing from the margins”: a methodology requiring a departure from structures and design processes that focus on the “main use cases.”

Based on her Berkman Klein Centre (BKC) fellowship project (2019-2020), Afsaneh continues the work and research she designed and led on security issues for LGBTQ communities who use dating apps and social media tools in the MENA region. Her research at BKC focuses on how these apps are used for evidence-gathering by state actors targeting LGBTQ groups. Afsaneh is exploring the admissibility of evidence within the prosecution process, researching which evidence gathered through apps becomes the most detrimental to users, resulting in charges brought against them. Through understanding these patterns in courts, the goal of her research is to identify ways of mitigating these risks for LGBTQ individuals, increasing acquittal rates, supporting legal teams, and ascertaining (and advocating on) what changes apps need to make to better protect vulnerable users.

The broader project and her research at BKC pose questions about the effects of technology in contexts it was not designed for and the effects of western-centrism on vulnerable and/or hard-to-reach communities. It also looks at how the power-holding corporations can be constructively engaged with, highlighting the need for effective corporate responsibility, harm reduction, and user and community-centered research. The collaborative work and research on the wider project have been collaborating, educating, and calling on businesses and tool developers to understand how their tools become implicated in human rights abuses - especially when designed without understanding all of the contexts in which they function and communities they function in.

Previously, her legal work has also focused on environmental protection and refugee rights, including for immigration detainees. Recently she has been leading an initiative focusing on refugees' information needs, legal rights, and secure documentation of rights violations. As part of ARTICLE 19's MENA team, her work has also included leading research on activists' needs for holistic security and access to information laws in the MENA region.


Publications

Publication
Mar 7, 2022

Digital Crime Scenes

The Role of Digital Evidence in the Persecution of LGBTQ People in Egypt, Lebanon, and Tunisia

Digital evidence has made it easier for law enforcement to identify, harass, and prosecute LGBTQ people...


Community

Wired

If Tech Fails to Design for the Most Vulnerable, It Fails Us All

Afsaneh Rigot connects Telegram in Russia, Elon Musk’s Twitter plans, and threats to abortion access and safety...

May 15, 2022
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Design From the Margins

Centering the most marginalized and impacted in design processes—from ideation to production

This report outlines how Design From the Margins can be used to build technologies for decentered cases from the beginning of the design process…

May 13, 2022
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Don’t Call Us Edge Cases – Designing From the Margins

Afsaneh Rigot explains why Design from the Margins is necessary and salutary...

Feb 4, 2022
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Why Online Anonymity Matters

Afsaneh Rigot writes that requirements for real identities on the Internet pose immense safety and security issues — especially for marginalized persons.

Nov 9, 2021
BKC Medium Collection

Movement Lawyering for Alternative Futures

Five community members speak about their vexed relationships to the law

Jan 4, 2021
Washington Blade

Tech experts fear new US broadcasting chief could jeopardize LGBTQ Internet freedom

Afsaneh Rigot says internet privacy and security measures are critical safety tools

Jul 7, 2020

Events

Apr 12, 2022 @ 11:00 AM

Design From the Margins: Centering the Decentered

hosted by the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

At the Belfer Center, Afsaneh Rigot discusses findings from the "Digital Crime Scenes" report with Jessica Fjeld, Jack Harrison-Quintana (Grindr), and Kathryn Harnett (WhatsApp),…

Mar 17, 2020 @ 12:00 PM

[Canceled] Tech and Human Rights

A Queer Dating Apps Case Study

This event has been canceled but may be rescheduled.