We are calling on Facebook and Instagram to do more to make their social media platforms safe for LGBT users who face digital targeting and severe offline consequences including detention and torture.

It starts with transparency.

image description

Spread the word about potential harms for LGBT users on social media platforms and the need for action. 

Government officials and private individuals across the Middle East and North Africa region are using social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to target LGBT people.

Read Amr’s story:

Amr, a 33-year-old gay man from Egypt, was contacted by a Facebook account pretending to be his friend and asking to meet him in 2018. When Amr arrived at their meeting spot, he started getting skeptical when his “friend” asked what he was wearing. But when he tried turning back, four police officers in civilian attire appeared and arrested him.

Amr was eventually charged with “inciting debauchery” and detained for two months based on “evidence” police planted on his phone.

He spoke to Human Rights Watch about his detention: “They [police officers] verbally abused me by calling me “faggot” and cursing me and my family. They also took turns putting out their cigarettes on my arms...During my interrogation, where they did not give me a chance to speak, they forced me to give them contacts of my LGBT friends. I signed the police report without receiving the chance to read it."

Amr’s story is one of many that could have been different if social media companies did more to secure their platforms from fake profiles and harmful posts. Learn more and ask Facebook and Instagram to take action on the #SecureOurSocials campaign site www.hrw.org/SecureOurSocials.

Share Amr’s Story on WhatsApp 


Online targeting has far-reaching offline consequences.

Social media can be an empowering tool for people around the world, but government officials and private individuals across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are using these platforms to target lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Read the full report.

Security forces have entrapped LGBT people using fake profiles and chats, and subjected them to online extortion, harassment, doxxing, and outing in public posts on Facebook and Instagram. In some cases, those targeted are arbitrarily detained, prosecuted, and tortured for same-sex conduct or “immorality” and “debauchery” based on illegitimately obtained photos, chats, and similar information. Download our awareness tips to learn more about how to mitigate the risks of digital targeting.

Who are you talking to?
image description

“I have received threats on various social media platforms from armed groups and high-ranking official army men. They specifically target people like us, to hunt us down and kill us.”

Masa, a 19-year-old transgender
woman from Najaf, Iraq.


The role of social media companies.

Human Rights Watch’s report documented Meta platforms as a vehicle for targeting of LGBT people in the MENA region.

As the largest social media company in the world, Meta should always be responsible for the security of users on its platforms – including by protecting them from egregious offline harm. More rapid, accountable, and transparent content moderation practices can improve Meta’s handling of complaints that are likely to lead to real-world harm. Some types of harmful online content, for example exposing the sexual orientation or gender identity of an individual, pose a heightened risk of harm and need to be addressed expeditiously. Read our full letter to Meta executives.

The #SecureOurSocials campaign is also calling on Meta to improve its user safety features among other asks:

Person smoking at a window, looking at their phone
image description

Disclose its annual investment in user safety and security including reasoned justifications explaining how investments are proportionate to the risk of harm.

image description

Disclose data about the number, diversity, regional expertise, political independence, training qualifications and relevant language proficiency of staff or contractors tasked with moderating content originating from the MENA region.

image description

Implement a one-step account lockdown tool allowing users to wipe all Meta content on a given device.

About the campaign.

The #SecureOurSocials campaign is a partnership between Damj Association, Helem, Human Rights Watch, INSM Foundation for Digital Rights, and Social Media Exchange (SMEX), calling on social media companies to help secure their platforms for all users.

  • image description
  • HELEM logo
  • Human Rights Watch logo
  • INSM Network for Digital Rights logo
  • SMEX logo