Attacks on vulnerable groups at the edge of the internet harm the open internet as a whole.
Access Now defends and extends the digital rights of users at risk around the world. By combining innovative policy, user engagement, and direct technical support, the organization fights for open and secure communications for all.
“We created Access Now in 2009,” explained Brett Solomon, co-founder and Executive Director, “because civil society was beginning to embrace the internet as a means to push for social, political, and environmental justice. In doing so, they were facing increasing risks and threats to their safety and privacy. So we created an NGO to respond to threats to civil actors, and to protect the open internet.”
The issue with finding threats to an open internet is that most of the people using the web don’t see the censorship. “Mainstream internet users who do not question institutions are often fine,” Solomon continued, “but it’s people challenging social or political norms that are at risk for freedom of expression violations. Attacks on vulnerable groups at the edge of the internet harm the open internet as a whole.”
“Banned or harassed away from traditional and broadcast media, civil society groups depend on the Internet to seek, receive, and impart information. Silencing and censoring these communications is a major threat to openness. Furthermore, knee-jerk policy decisions made around hot topics like cybersecurity can lead to censorship laws that, from a policy perspective, are a major threat to the internet and its users.“
“Those challenging the status quo encounter DDoS attacks, malware, and other malicious attacks that essentially silence their voice,” Solomon remarked. “In technical terms there are rarely DDoS attacks on average users, it’s those that are challenging, questioning, and innovating within society that are most at risk.”
With a range of technical, policy, and legal threats that could affect civil society simultaneously Access Now turned to Cloudflare to see if they could collaborate to help the at-risk people from losing their digital rights.
“There is a shrinking space online for civil society to thrive,” noted Solomon. “Part of Project Galileo is to keep that space open, and to ensure that online publishing platforms are safe and protected -- even if the content is challenging or odious to certain readers.”
“Project Galileo is a crucial part of an ecosystem of platforms that provide technical defenses to protect the most vulnerable,” Solomon continued. “The project is consistent with the human rights framework that the UN has declared applies both on and offline. Project Galileo leverages the power of the private sector to defend those who have the fewest resources, but need the greatest protection. It’s a valuable contribution to ensuring that platforms, people, and organizations are able to stay online and communicate with each other and the world in a manner that’s robust and sustainable.”
Solomon concluded, “If we have no defense against DDOS attacks, it could result in censorship, violence, and potentially loss of life. In order to have a pluralistic society you have to have a healthy civil society. That leads to democratic participation, a healthier environment, and a more diverse and accepting society.”