OutRight, Citizen Lab and OONI Expose Censorship of LGBTIQ Websites in New Report


31 Augutst 2021

Media Contact: Daina Ruduša, commsteam@outrightinternational.org, +1 (917) 622-1865


OutRight, Citizen Lab and OONI Expose Censorship of LGBTIQ Websites in New Report

A new report from OutRight Action International, the Citizen Lab, and the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) documents the state of website censorship in some of the most challenging countries in the world for LGBTIQ communities. The report shows prevalent censorship of LGBTIQ website content, reflecting prevalent levels of LGBTIQ-phobia and active silencing of LGBTIQ voices by certain states. The study combines network measurement techniques with interviews from local experts, providing novel insight into the technical obstacles many users face in accessing LGBTIQ news, health, and human rights websites.

The report focuses on Indonesia, Malaysia, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). These countries are known for having some of the most challenging environments for the promotion and protection of human rights in the world. The documented online censorship in these jurisdictions prevents LGBTIQ people from accessing important information, silences LGBTIQ voices, and obstructs the efforts of civil society who are fighting for LGBTIQ rights.

The report provides detailed technical and policy examinations of each country, finding:

  • The highest blocking consistency was found in Saudi Arabia, where most LGBTIQ URLs were found blocked more than 75% of the times tested.
  • The highest number of LGBTIQ URLs found blocked was in Iran.
  • Russia had the highest number of networks that block LGBTIQ URLs. 
  • In all six countries, LGBTIQ-related content is wrongly conflated with pornography and subjected to laws outlawing such content.
  • Censorship leads to self-censorship, especially where punitive actions against LGBTIQ communities are intensifying.

OutRight Action International, Citizen Lab, and OONI also found that in some of these countries, the criminalization of same-sex relations and transgender identities, in addition to the shrinking space for civil society online and offline, has hampered coalition- and movement-building efforts.

Deputy Executive Director of OutRight Action International, Maria Sjödin, comments:

“For so many LGBTIQ people around the world, the ability to connect online is the only opportunity to find community and access life-saving information. Censorship cuts off an important lifeline, further demonizes the LGBTIQ community, and obstructs the work of LGBTIQ organizations. Such censorship, typically justified by discriminatory or arbitrarily applied laws, is in violation of international standards of freedom of expression and access to information. As long as states continue to censor LGBTIQ websites, the international community, private sector actors and civil society must do what they can to protect these fundamental rights.”

Access the report here




OutRight Action International works at a global, regional and national level to eradicate the persecution, inequality, and violence lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer (LGBTIQ) people face around the world. From its offices in 7 countries and headquarters in New York, OutRight builds capacity of LGBTIQ movements, documents human rights violations, advocates for inclusion and equality, and holds leaders accountable for protecting the rights of LGBTIQ people everywhere. OutRight has recognized consultative status at the United Nations.