SXSW 2024

Surveillance & Spyware in the Middle East


Social media and the digital space have been pivotal for sharing information, facilitating debates and discussions, and criticizing governmental policies and actions in the Middle East. The Arab Spring demonstrated its power as a virtual political movement and medium to mobilize activists and citizens. However, an alarming trend has emerged: advanced technologies now aid authoritarian governments in suppressing activists and dissidents. As a result, it is vital to grasp the risks of weaponizing emerging technology and online activism, and take necessary action.

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  1. Uncover the extent of authoritarian regimes' weaponization of spyware and the risks posed by emerging technology.
  2. Explore future and upcoming advancements in this field and how emerging technologies, such as AI may be further weaponized by authoritarian regimes.
  3. Learn how activists navigate and overcome threats to their work and livelihoods and how audience members can provide their support.


  • Runa Sandvik, Founder, Granitt
  • Ahmed Benchemsi, Advocacy and Communications Director, Middle East and North Africa Division, Human Rights Watch
  • Bill Marczak, Co-Founder, Bahrain Watch
  • Mohamad Najem, Executive Director, SMEX


Tala Semaan, Policy Office - Middle East & North Africa, Human Rights Foundation

Meta Information:

  • Event: SXSW
  • Format: Panel
  • Track: Tech Industry
  • Track 2
  • Level: Beginner

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