Nominate your Human Rights Heroes & Villains

Updated: January 14, 2019

Deadline to nominate: February 15, 2019

Every year, Access Now celebrates the heroes of human rights in the digital age, and we’re looking for nominations! This year’s heroes will receive a trip to RightsCon Tunis (including airfare, accommodations, and stipend). We need your help to find the people and groups who are working to defend our rights. Submit nominations here.

Heroes and Villains Origin Story:

We believe that human rights are universal — including on the internet. Technology has given us new and powerful ways to exercise our rights, but the internet can also be a battlefield where those rights are under threat. To defend our private spaces, a group of experts convened in 2013 and identified 13 principles governments must follow to ensure any electronic surveillance program fully respects human rights. They are known as the Necessary and Proportionate Principles.

In celebration of those principles and the work of people around the world to protect digital rights, every year Access Now names “heroes” and “villains” who have either protected the principles of freedom online or worked to undermine them.

Access Now is in the fifth year of its Annual Heroes and Villains awards. Last year, we named five heroes who embodied the 13 Principles of Human Rights in Communications Surveillance in 2017, and five villains whose actions put human rights at greater risk. We are proud that we were able to bring those five heroes to RightsCon, the world’s leading summit on human rights in the digital age. We featured their work in several sessions and held a special “heroes” session to discuss the threats we face and how they can be overcome.

Heroes and Villains at RightsCon 2019:

Each year, our “Heroes and Villains” recognition has changed to meet the needs of the community. This year, we’re making some new changes. We’ll bring our heroes to RightsCon Tunis, and we’re planning a bigger celebration. (Heroes* will receive airfare, accommodations, free admission to RightsCon, and a daily stipend during the conference.) We’ll have more to say about the celebration once we get closer, but for now we need your help finding the heroes of internet freedom. We are requesting nominations for both heroes and villains through January 15, 2019, and, in a new twist, we will announce and celebrate our heroes on stage at RightsCon Tunis 2019.

Nomination Process:

You can nominate a friend, colleague, group, or anyone else who has either embodied the spirit of internet freedom (hero) or somehow undermined our digital rights (villain). Access Now staff will vet the nominees and present them, along with our recommendations, to the Access Now board, who will make the final decision based on six criteria:

  1. Impact in the field — How has the person’s work had a demonstrable impact on internet freedom and digital rights, either locally, regionally, or globally? (positively for the Heroes, or negatively for the Villains)
  2. Embodiment of the Principles — How have the 13 Principles of human rights and electronics surveillance played a part in that work?
  3. Diverse representation — Do the awardees represent a diverse range of voices and regions?
  4. Connection to users at risk — How has the person’s work impacted those most prone to marginalization?
  5. Value to RightsCon — Can we leverage the RightsCon event and community to empower and promote this person even further as a Hero, or to hold this person to account as a Villain?
  6. Other factors — What extra oomph does the person have that should be considered?

Our greatest asset is the community of which we’re a part. We grant recognition to these heroes to demonstrate our esteem and respect, so please help us grant a spotlight on great work and make your nominations today and throughout the year.

*If a group is named a hero, we will ask one person from that group to travel to RightsCon Tunis to represent the group.