Practitioner Fellow, Digital Civil Society Lab, Stanford PACS
Beatrice Martini was a Practitioner Fellow at the Digital Civil Society Lab (2019-2020, 2020-2021).
Beatrice is a technology capacity builder and researcher. She is the Education Coordinator for the Access Now Digital Security Helpline, a 24/7 real-time resource for civil society groups, activists, journalists and human rights defenders.
Previously, Beatrice led the Human Rights Technology program at the nonprofit Aspiration , driving collaborative initiatives with information security practitioners, community organizers, lawyers, and researchers supporting human rights efforts globally.
Before that, she worked at the Open Knowledge Foundation and on several projects leveraging open source technology in support of justice and rights endeavors.
She is also a research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, where she explores the implications of Internet infrastructure design on human rights, and serves in a formal advisory role with the Center for the Cultivation of Technology and OpenArchive.
Civil Society Advocacy for a Public Interest Internet Infrastructure
Project Lead: Beatrice Martini
This project seeks to identify and explore pathways for civil society to advocate for a public interest Internet infrastructure.
Because of its globally distributed nature, the Internet does not have a central governing body, and its interoperability is managed by a multitude of public and private entities. Internet governance is collectively enacted by the design of technology, the policies of private companies, the administrative functions of global standard-setting organizations, as well as national laws and international agreements.
The content and material implications of Internet standards can affect fundamental rights such as privacy, security, anonymity, freedom of expression and information. The current multistakeholder Internet governance arrangement allows civil society organizations to directly participate in the creation of Internet policies. However, engaging with Internet infrastructure development presents its challenges. While private corporations and governments have ample capability to steer decisions towards their commercial and political needs, many civil society organizations lack the financial resources and capacity to address technical issues necessary to sustain advocacy efforts in standard-setting forums.
Decision-making about Internet technology design is effectively social policy. How can civil society actors strategically engage Internet standardization and other lower-layer tech development bodies through technical arguments? How can public interest technologists join forces to contribute to their mission, and how can scholars support these efforts by conducting relevant research and strengthening apt educational paths?
This project strives to identify research and advocacy paths towards the development and maintenance of a public interest in Internet infrastructure.
It seeks to do so through the creation of opportunities for relevant stakeholders – such as civil society actors, scholars, and public interest technologists – to collaboratively envision and prototype practices aimed at strengthening civil society’s impact.
In particular, the project aims to address the following questions:
How can the impact of code and Internet protocol design on human rights online be assessed?
How can the accountability of Internet governance and standards-setting bodies be improved?
How can relevant civil society actors who are not yet participating in Internet governance and standards-setting forums acquire the capacity to get involved?
The project seeks to:
Leverage the work done by scholars, practitioners and technologists advocating for a public interest Internet infrastructure, by curating a collection of their publications and reports, to represent a snapshot of the networks’ thought work and bring attention to the subject.
Share the findings emerged from recently co-hosted working sessions focusing on public interest advocacy at the lower layers of the Internet, with civil society, academic and technical communities, welcoming feedback which could most strategically guide future – either already and newly proposed – initiatives.
Document and openly share the input collected through the aforementioned cross-domain discussions and feedback rounds to provide relevant communities with useful data on which to build further endeavors.
Beatrice Martini advocates for human rights as embodied by digital infrastructure in her day job and as a fellow. In her work with the Access Now Digital Security Helpline, she speaks directly with activists facing digital security crises to provide both preventive and emergency support trainings. This work requires her to understand the many layers of the tech stack – from user interfaces to deep protocols. As a DCSL fellow, Martini built on this knowledge and daily experience to publish a white paper called “Internet Infrastructure and Human Rights: A Reading List.” The paper compiles and annotates resources from scholars to bloggers on human and digital rights in modern contexts, particularly in light of Covid and longstanding biases of gender, class, or geography. The paper has been picked up by scholars and used in academic courses, some of which have invited Martini as a guest lecturer.
Martini sees civil society, and digital civil society specifically, as becoming more and more aware–and self-aware–of the need for internet safety and infrastructure attention. Access Now’s Helpline hit 10,000 cases (with a growing number of preventive cases) recently, which Martini sees as a sign of important change. Still, she says, strategic funding is lagging behind awareness. Her work prioritizes a deeper understanding of people and processes over the fluctuations of technology, work that takes longer and requires time and space to step back, breathe, and observe the system in action.
In response to the emergent needs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and in addition to Beatrice’s duties as Education and Communities Lead, she catalyzed and coordinated the development of a more secure infrastructure for audio and video communications for the Helpline, in partnership with the OurVoices consortium (also including the Associate for Progressive Communications, Digital Defenders Partnership, Front Line Defenders, and International Freedom of Expression Exchange).