Resources for Digital Activists at Risk
With the global increase of surveillance and online censorship by governments, and the decline in freedom of expression online that involves unprecedented threats to online journalists as well as bloggers, digital activists and normal users of social media outlets; the need to provide both technical and physical assistance to digital activists at risk is rising. Below is are a few organizations that provide a range of services (both technical and financial) to human rights defenders, journalists and digital activists.
Access Now digital security helpline: this international NGO (headquartered in New York) has a responsive 24-hour security helpline, based out of Manila, San Jose and Tunis. They support human rights defenders by giving technical support, personalized recommendations and guidance on improving secure communications and digital security, as well as bolstering the security of the infrastructure of websites and social media against attacks. The helpline also does face-to-face consultations and referrals for capacity-building and trainings.
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ): provides direct assistance to journalists at risk and their families for both digital and nondigital emergencies. Support includes: legal funds for journalists in prison; relocation to safe havens, support for political asylum cases and medical assistance. CPJ also has a useful Journalist Security Guide that targets journalists operating in dangerous environments and gives them advice on risk assessments and digital security.
Frontline Defenders: this Irish NGO has a security grants program since 2001 that targets human rights defenders at risk from a range of dangers that include assistance with digital and communications security; in addition to physical security, legal support and medical support; as well as financial support to families of imprisoned human rights defenders. They fund both emergencies and general security requests for up to 7,500 Euros.
Deflect: this project provides free and specific technical assistance to independent media, human rights organizations and activists suffering from distributed denial of service (DDoS) hacking attacks that threaten to bring down their websites and censor their voice online. The Deflect project’s technology allows organizations and individuals who qualify for assistance to have websites that are resilient to DDoS attempts. The eligibility requirements include organizations that have suffered from DDoS attacks in the past and fear future attacks.
Digital Defenders Partnership (DDP): Hivos (an international NGO based in the Netherlands and supported by the Dutch government) has a program for human rights defenders focused on digital activists. Support includes tools to circumvent censorship and provide assistance, in the form of small grants, to people facing digital emergencies; and legal protection to bloggers and activists who are on trial due to their online expression. Emergency financial assistance to organizations (civil society and media) under digital attack is also available to help them mitigate and create threat models and response strategies.
Digital First Aid Kit: is a useful self-diagnostic tool designed to help human rights defenders, bloggers and activists who are facing digital threats to better understand the risks to which they are exposed. The kit begins by enabling users to establish a secure communication and then goes through a series of questions about the user, their devices and their specific situation. This helps users to understand the challenges faced and when to request help from a specialist. The kit includes sections on: account hacking, seizure of devices, malware infections and DDoS attacks.
Seed Alliance: is a small grants program with geographic coverage that spans Africa, Asia and Latin America and a focus on: improving the quality of digital openness; inclusion of minorities in nascent networked communities; and bolstering digital access and freedom of expression online (including freedom of association, privacy, security and consumer rights); supporting innovative solutions; and deepening information networks. In addition to developing content, applications and solutions for timely and large-scale dissemination of information . The Seed Alliance is a collaboration established between the FIRE, FRIDA and ISIF Asia grants programs. The Africa region is supported by the African Network Information Center (AFRINIC).