Supporting Regional Research and Coalition Building Toward Tech Platform Accountability in South Asia and Around the Globe

The Platform Impacts Fund (PIF) has a goal to enable flexible funding to support medium and high-capacity civil society organizations based in the Majority World already working on tech governance and platform accountability themes. In initial consultations with partners, the feedback was that many organizations based outside of the US and EU who are already doing great work do not always have direct access to large multi-year grants from governments and traditional foundations for more strategic work towards advocacy. Therefore, a portion of the PIF was set aside to award flexible core funding over a period of twelve months to three organizations. One of the grantees was the Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) based in Pakistan.

In December 2023, DRF launched a Regional Bloc to facilitate a space for South Asian civil society organizations (CSOs) to convene, combine solidarities, and advocate on common issues directly to tech platforms. The goal of the Bloc is to focus on citizens from the region as main beneficiaries, especially those experiencing online harms at an aggravated scale due to intersectional identities. The initial aims of the coalition are:

  • Creating a repository of verifiable data and literature on how big tech interacts with the region and has done so in the past.
  • Measuring efficacy of these efforts against the regional context.
  • Amplifying findings and directing them towards Big Tech.
  • Keeping an eye on emerging technologies and their impact on democratic rights.

“The goal of this initiative is to form a solidarity and support group of civil society organizations from the global majority,” explains Nighat Dad from DRF. “We now have 20 organizations participating and the goal going forward is to maintain a space for dialogue between civil society organizations and advocate towards strategies and approaches that hold Big Tech platforms accountable for their actions in countries from the global majority. The regional bloc will also serve as a space for partners to have conversations around the growing role of generative AI and emerging technologies in our daily lives and its impact on at-risk communities. DRF envisions expanding its regional bloc with more representation from global majority organizations working on platform accountability.”

In addition to conceptualizing and fostering the new regional coalition, DRF maintains a cyber harassment helpline which has received about 17,399 complaints across the country on cases relating to tech-facilitated gender-based violence, hate speech and disinformation. DRF produced a policy brief under the project which highlighted the effect of online harmful content on marginalized groups through calls received at the helpline.

PIF core funding was intended to provide organizations from the Majority World already carrying out high impact work on platform accountability with flexible funding without donor restrictions and strict reporting requirements. The call for applications was launched in early 2022 and we received many more applications than anticipated, a clear sign that there is still much need for flexible core funding in this space. Organizations with regional expertise and credibility, like the Digital Rights Foundations, are best placed to address online violence and harms in their communities and often overlooked by Big Tech. 

“Our goal is to build solidarity with partner organizations working on the frontlines of tech accountability outside the English-speaking world,” explains Zoey Barthelemy, Platform Accountability Specialist at Internews. “Providing flexible core funding allows us to identify and partner with high-capacity CSOs from the Majority World with deep contextual knowledge and resourceful networks that can advocate directly to platforms and push for change.”

Provision of flexible core fundings is a meaningful way to recognize and support organizations already working at the heart of tech governance issues in their regions to strategize and develop a more impactful collective advocacy push towards meaningful change for individuals based in geographies that are often overlooked by Big Tech. Individuals and organizations interested in learning more about Digital Rights Foundation and their Regional Bloc can contact them directly.