Dr. Nathalie Maréchal is a writer, researcher and activist working at the intersection of internet policy and human rights advocacy.
Nathalie is the Policy Director at Ranking Digital Rights, a non-profit research initiative housed at New America, a think tank in Washington, DC, that works with an international network of partners to set global standards for how companies in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector should respect freedom of expression and privacy. In this role, she leads RDR’s engagement with governments, international and multilateral organizations, civil society groups, and academia, with the aim of holding companies accountable for their duty to respect human rights. She also manages the researchers and advocates who produce RDR’s signature scorecards, work with global partners to adapt RDR’s methodology to new issue areas and local contexts, and engage directly with companies and investors.
In 2020, Nathalie was the lead author for RDR’s “It’s the Business Model” report series, which builds on her 2018 Motherboard op-ed, “Targeted Advertising is Ruining the Internet and Breaking the World,” to argue that disinformation, hate speech, and other “information harms” associated social media platforms are rooted in the surveillance capitalism business model. The report series calls on governments to focus reform efforts on data protection and corporate governance, rather than attempting to regulate online speech. Previously, Nathalie led RDR’s methodology development process to expand the Corporate Accountability Index to include new company types and issue areas, notably targeted advertising and algorithmic systems such as the ones used for content moderation. Nathalie’s work on targeted advertising and its discontents has been credited with helping shift the national policy conversation away from a singular focus on content moderation and toward a more holistic approach to Big Tech accountability.
In 2018, Nathalie received her PhD in Communication from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Her dissertation, “‘Use Signal, Use Tor’ ? : The Political Economy of Digital Rights Technology,” examined the relationship between the transnational social movement for human rights online and the US Internet Freedom Agenda through an ethnography of the “freedom technologists” behind popular secure messaging applications (Signal, WhatsApp, Telegram) and censorship circumvention software (Tor, Psiphon). She hopes to publish this work in some form, eventually.
Fluent in French and Spanish, Nathalie is a frequent speaker at digital rights events and academic conferences around the world (and now, on Zoom). Her work has been published by the International Journal of Communication, the Journal of Democracy, the Global Commission on Internet Governance, Media and Communication, Global Voices, Motherboard, and Slate. Nathalie lives in Washington, DC.