Human Rights Watch



New #SecureOurSocials Campaign Urges Transparency from Facebook, Instagram

Dangerous social media targeting of LGBT individuals and communities in the Middle East and North Africa has resulted in a new Human Rights Watch #SecureOurSocials campaign focused on META and its app users. The campaign features a video starring Lebanese drag pioneer, Anya Kneez, which is aimed at users of Instagram and Facebook and offers a variety of solutions to keep LGBT people safe on Meta’s platforms.

The explainer video is a companion piece to an awareness guide on how LGBTQ people can stay safe online when using social media applications. Importantly, the action campaign also asks META to disclose its annual investment in user safety including how trust and safety investments are proportionate to the risk of harm, for each region, language, and dialect in the MENA region.

The video is directed by M.A.Y.O., an award-winning directing collective that works across music videos, commercials, features and TV. M.A.Y.O. and the in-house campaigns team produced and developed the campaign video, with support by audio studio Sonic Union. Additionally, a wide range of Human Rights Watch experts supported the campaign in acting as creative directors, strategists, copywriters and art directors to craft the campaign strategy.

“Air Anya was a true marriage of human rights expertise with some of the best creative talent," shares Amanda Alampi, Director of Campaigns and Public Engagement at Human Rights Watch. “Collaborators like Sonic Union, who have a storied history of doing sound on award winning campaigns, helped give our LGBT rights research the humor and production value we needed to reach wider audiences. We’re looking forward to continuing collaboration with best in class agencies, production companies and creatives to bridge the worlds of pop culture and human rights.”

“As a Lebanese queer drag performer with experiences in both Beirut and New York, this campaign holds personal significance,” shares Anya Kneez. “The importance of safe digital spaces for the LGBTQ community in the face of constant threats is crucial. Having experienced the challenges and occasional dangers of doing drag in the Middle East, being part of Air Anya feels like a role I've been preparing for and I think it’s so powerful when organizations like Human Rights Watch find authentic ways to collaborate with talent.”

The #SecureOurSocials was developed with an extensive investigation in which Human Rights Watch examined the use of digital targeting by security forces and its far-reaching offline consequences–including arbitrary detention and torture–in five countries: Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Tunisia. The findings show that security forces use social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, to entrap and harass LGBT people on social media, as well as to gather and create evidence to prosecute them.

LGBT people Human Rights Watch interviewed reported losing their jobs, being subjected to family violence, including conversion practices, having to change their place of residence and even flee their country, and experiencing severe mental health consequences, as a result of being targeted online, including on Facebook and Instagram.

While Meta’s policies and standards prohibit many forms of online abuse, the company frequently falls short in consistently applying these rules on its platforms, Human Rights Watch said. As a result, content targeting LGBT people sometimes remains on Facebook and Instagram even when it violates Meta’s policies, while the platform removes other content, including documentation of human rights abuses.

Human Rights Watch has been in discussions with Meta staff about its concerns for months. In addition, Human Rights Watch sent a letter on February 2, 2023 to Meta’s human rights department, which posed specific questions that had stemmed from the research and listed the report’s findings before publishing its digital targeting report. Meta declined to provide a written response, though it continued to engage with Human Rights Watch on these issues.

On January 3, 2024, Human Rights Watch sent another letter to Meta to inform the company of the campaign and solicit its perspective.

Human Rights Watch and other humanitarian organizations assert that social media companies have a responsibility to respect human rights, including the rights to nondiscrimination, privacy, and freedom of expression. They should also identify and address human rights impacts arising from their services, including by providing meaningful access to remedies, and communicate the steps they take to address these impacts.

As powerful as social media companies are, governments are the primary duty bearers responsible for protecting human rights, Human Rights Watch said. Governments in the MENA region should respect and protect the rights of LGBT people instead of criminalizing their expression and targeting them online. They should introduce and enforce laws protecting people against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, including online.

This professional campaign titled '#SecureOurSocials' was published in United States in January, 2024. It was created for the brand: Human Rights Watch, . This Integrated medium campaign is related to the Public Interest industry and contains 1 media asset. It was submitted 3 months ago.


Air Anya - Credits
Client: Human Rights Watch

Director: M.A.Y.O.
Producers: Matt Kilbourne, Priya Sanghvi
Director of Photography/Editor: Anima Works

Anya Kneez - Herself
Extras: Juahn Cabrera, Naimah Hakim, Wendy Hammer, Ziva Ludy Juneja, Imani Logan, Terrance Murphy, Bronte Price, Rasha Younes

Sound: Tom Fama, Silver Sound

Sound Design and Mix: Michael Marinelli and Dean Methherell, Sonic Union

Colorist: Maria Carretero, Assembly


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