IGF 2023 Lightning Talk #92 Technological Violence and High-Risk Border Experiments

Tuesday, 10th October, 2023 (01:30 UTC) - Tuesday, 10th October, 2023 (02:00 UTC)
SC – Room H

Human Rights & Freedoms
Non-discrimination in the Digital Space
Rights to Access and Information
Technology in International Human Rights Law

Human Rights & Freedoms

Refugee Law Lab, York University and Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University
Petra Molnar, York University and Harvard University Florian Schmitz, Migration and Technology Monitor


Petra Molnar, York University and Harvard University, Academia and Civil Society, International

Onsite Moderator

Petra Molnar

Online Moderator

Florian Schmitz


Petra Molnar


1. No Poverty
5. Gender Equality
9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
10. Reduced Inequalities
11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Targets: People on the move are often left out of conversations around technological development, and like other marginalized communities, they often become testing grounds for new surveillance tools. The use of violent and high-risk technologies at the border touches on virtually every Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), most specifically Goals 1,9,10,11, and 16. For example, The impacts of new technologies on the lives and rights of people on the move are far reaching. The right to life and the right liberty, the right to be free from discrimination, the right to privacy, and a host of other fundamental internationally protected rights are highly relevant to technological experimentation in migration and refugee contexts. The use of these technologies by border enforcement is only likely to increase in the militarized technological regime of border spaces and the growing and lucrative border industrial complex, without appropriate public consultation, accountability frameworks, and oversights mechanisms, undergirded by robust policy making.


Lightning Talk presentation with original photography from various border sites around the world where unregulated technologies and migration intersect, including Greek refugee camps, US-Mexico border across the Sonora desert, and the Somali-Kenya frontier, among others (examples can be seen here: https://www.migrationtechmonitor.com/snapshots as well as on my Twitter page, for example: https://twitter.com/_PMolnar/status/1568263556826812416?s=20)

Duration (minutes)

Practices of border violence increasingly rely on high-risk technological experiments. Predictive analytics used for border interdictions, AI-power lie detectors and powerful sound cannons are just some of the more recent tools that states, private entities, and even international organizations use to manage migration. Certain places like borders serve as testing grounds for new technologies, because regulation and oversight are limited and an ‘anything goes’ frontier attitude informs the development and deployment of surveillance and automation. A growing multi-billion euro border industrial complex also underpins the development and deployment of high-risk new technologies. Based on comparative work in Europe, East Africa, and the US-Mexico border since 2018, this lighting talk foreground the lived experiences of people on the move as they are interacting with the sharpest edges of experimental border technologies and blends ethnographic methodology with international human rights law analysis. The issues around emerging technologies in the management of migration are not just about the inherent use of technology but rather about how it is used and by whom, with states and private actors setting the stage for what is possible and which priorities matter. Who gets to ask questions about proposed innovations and why are perspectives from the ground up relegated to the margins? Background resources: https://edri.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Technological-Testing-Groun… and https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-81210-2_3

For this lightning talk, I will be showing photographs while making my remarks to make the presentation more visually engaging both for the audience present as well as for those online. My colleague Florian Schmitz will also be monitoring the online chat to ensure that any comments and questions are captured and after a 20 minute talk we will have 10 minutes of questions and discussion from online and in-person participants.