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.