#96% of humanity: Supported civil society to demand equitable action from Big Tech

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“The lives and societies of people in the rest of the world, especially the Global South, are worth no less than those in the United States. A knee-jerk response for a few select markets might be easier and cheaper for the companies, but not appropriate for defending democracy and human rights.”

From the #96percentofhumanity joint statement

Why was the campaign needed?

On 6th January 2021, hate speech and incitement to violence — much of it coordinated and amplified on platforms run by Facebook, Google, and Twitter — culminated in white nationalists storming the United States Capitol in a bid to interfere with the electoral process. The incident showed how much power these platforms hold when it comes to protecting democratic processes.

In the wake of this, Digital Action convened civic society organisations from across the globe. Initially, our focus was on sharing how civil society action had protected the US electoral process and any lessons that could be applied in other countries. But it quickly became apparent that there is stark inequity in resources, investment, access and local expertise when it comes to social media and the Global South.

What was the #96percentofhumanity campaign?

On 21 January 2021, we released a joint statement from over 30 global civil society organisations on the impact of Facebook, Google and Twitter on human rights. We called the campaign #96percentofhumanity, a reference to Big Tech only focusing their electoral safeguarding efforts on the U.S.A, which represents 4% of humanity. The remaining 96%, we argued, are vulnerable to the whims of these tech companies.

In June 2021, Digital Action and the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism hosted a session at RightsCon on “Building Coalitions Across Borders: Incorporating lessons learned into future impactful collective action”. The session was attended by civil society organisations who shared their experience of digital harms, the challenges they face for joint action, and what civil society, funders, and others can do to overcome them. We held a similar session at Bread & Net in Beirut in December 2021 on “The Responsibility of Social Media Platforms to Protect Digital Content in the Middle East and North Africa”.

Off the back of our joint statement in January 2021, we and some of our partners (Iraqi Network for Social Media, International Dalit Solidarity Network, SNV, Never Again, Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy and Global Project Against Hate and Extremism) met with Twitter to discuss how it can better engage with civil society organisations in the Global South and better action such as contextualised content monitoring, fact checking and banning harmful accounts.

What was the impact of the campaign?

This campaign not only helped disparate organisations take a stand on a global issue, it was also the foundation of the coalition we formed in 2022 – the Global Alliance Against Digital Hate and Extremism – which has held tech companies to account since. Digital Action’s 2024 campaign, Year of Democracy, is a direct result of this work in 2021. Our strategic focus has since been on holding Big Tech to account in the global majority, in particular ahead of elections.

In January 2023, the US January 6th Committee published a report on the impact of social media on the insurrection. Anika Collier Navaroli, a former Twitter employee turned whistleblower who gave evidence to the committee, is supported by one of our partners, The Signals Network. As CNN reported, the Committee ‘failed to hold social media companies to account for their role in the Capitol attack, staffers and witnesses say.

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