Afsaneh Rigot (she/her) is a scholar and researcher covering issues of law, technology, LGBTQ, refugee, and human rights. Her work and her research pose questions about the effects of technology in contexts for which it was not designed, and the effects of western-centrism on vulnerable and hard-to-reach communities. She also looks, in theory and practice, at how to constructively engage with power-holding corporations.
She is a senior program officer at ARTICLE 19 focusing on human rights issues and international corporate responsibility in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). She is also an Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, and a Technology and Public Purpose Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
At ARTICLE 19, Afsaneh continues to lead transnational research uncovering how police and states in MENA use technology to target, harass and arrest LGBTQ people based on their identity. Independently, she has conducted the first research on the use of digital evidence and legal frameworks in the prosecution of LGBTQ people in courts.
Through her work and research, Afsaneh has created recommendations for major social media and communications technologies to push companies for accountability and responsibility for the safety, security, and privacy needs of communities she is embedded in. To date, her work has led to major changes to some of the biggest social media and communications platforms. She is also consulted by international NGOs and UN bodies.
Afsaneh has developed a design methodology for implementing changes to technology products by centering those most impacted, which she calls “Design from the Margins.” This methodology requiring a departure from structures and design processes that focus on the “main use cases,” instead highlighting the benefits to all users from design based on those most marginalized and gravely impacted by design decisions. The work refutes the often-repeated idea that due to business incentives, companies cannot be held to account for so-called “edge cases.”