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7 Oct 2022

Leandro Ucciferri, Ranking Digital Rights

Ranking Digital Rights launches a new hub for researchers who want to hold tech & telecommunications companies accountable

Ranking Digital Rights

"Growing the Global Platform Accountability Movement: RDR’s New Research Lab", 7 October 2022

... we formally launch the RDR Research Lab, a new resource that guides digital rights researchers through the process of designing, executing, and promoting research on platform accountability anywhere in the world, using RDR’s methodology and standards. This guide is based on our experience producing the RDR Corporate Accountability Index and Big Tech and Telco GIants Scorecards, as well as on feedback from civil society partners who have published their own RDR-style reports.

Civil society organizations around the world have been inspired by RDR’s mission, using our open methodology and standards to push technology companies toward greater respect for, and protection of, people’s rights to privacy and freedom of expression. Between 2016 and 2021, nine research reports were published around the globe that adapted our methodology to evaluate the policies of tech companies and their potential impact on human rights in local environments. These included studies on Pakistan, India, Kenya, Senegal, Russia, the Arab region, New York City, Iran, and Ukraine. 

Most of these efforts were undertaken independently, with little to no direct support from RDR. But in 2021 we were awarded two grants that enabled us to provide direct guidance and technical assistance to civil society organizations around the world, and particularly in the global south. Our goals are both to expand the network of researchers and advocates using RDR’s methodology to hold tech power to account and, through their research, to help equalize an information asymmetry that has allowed tech companies to pay less attention to their platforms’ human rights risks in the majority world than at home. 

Still, even with added resources, we can’t be everywhere at once, so we created the Research Lab to explain our research process and approach and make it easier for new researchers to get involved. The Lab consists of four sections—Prepare, Collect, Analyze, and Apply—each of which offers guidance for a specific part of the research process.

To develop the Lab, we tried to better understand how people interact with our methodology, looked at potential roadblocks in evaluating a range of tech companies and digital services across the globe, and considered how researchers could make the most of our standards. So far, we have helped guide several local digital rights organizations to publish new research, in Lesotho, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and in Cambodia, Indonesia, Maldives, Nepal, Philippines, and Sri Lanka. Coming up are adaptations from across Eastern Europe, Southern Africa, and South America.