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18 Apr 2023

Dismantling the facade: A global south perspective on the state of engagement with tech companies


Information Communication Technologies (ICT) companies have determining effects across personal, professional, social and political facets of our lives. While increased productivity, access to information and efficiency are hallmarks of the expansive ICT sector, so too are the negative consequences of many of its products and services: unchecked proliferation of hate speech, misinformation, intrusive surveillance, manipulative algorithms, discriminatory artificial intelligence (AI) and environmental damage in the form of a growing carbon footprint and dumping of e-waste. Against this background, the role of civil society in calling for corporate accountability and transparency remains both vitally important and uniquely challenging.

In recent years, civil society organisations and human rights defenders (HRDs) have sought to engage with ICT companies to ensure users’ rights are protected. Their experiences make clear that despite these efforts, tech companies have a significant accountability gap to close. This is of particular concern in the Global South, where authoritarian regimes have in many cases diminished the rule of law, and regulations or mechanisms for bringing companies to justice are non-existent or overbroad and ineffective. HRDs report that the challenges faced by digital rights groups working to hold companies accountable in the Global South, along with the nature and severity of digital rights issues faced, differ from those of their counterparts in Europe and the United States of America, where most of these companies are domiciled or headquartered.

This analysis draws on consultations and interviews with civil society groups and digital rights defenders in the Global South exploring three specific examples from civil society groups demanding tech sector accountability:

  • Myanmar: 13 digital rights organisations push for Meta to address Facebook content linked to Rohingya genocide
  • Chile: Derechos Digitales analyses data protection practices in the telecoms sector
  • Africa: Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum brings together cross-regional voices for critical conversations on digital policy in Africa

These cases, together with reflections from interviews with other activists and practitioners conducted over the course of a year in 11 countries, provide detail on tools and strategies currently in use. Read the report for more information and our recommendations for strengthening the movement for accountability for rights infringements, partly grounded in lessons learned from these case studies.

Read the report

Dismantling the facade: A global south perspective on the state of engagement with tech companies