Creating safer spaces online is an ongoing relational negotiation process.
In order to create safer spaces online, technology must be designed to counter hate speech, dis- and misinformation. Effective, trauma-informed mechanisms to report and analyse abuse or harmful flaws in tech must become mandatory. Creating online spaces for collaboration and exchange where people have support, and feel empowered to speak freely is an ongoing and relational negotiation process.
»There is a gender-based digital divide, particularly in the Global South. Globally, women are 7% less likely to own a mobile phone than men. This gap increases significantly in parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America where many girls and women do not have access to the internet and face significant hurdles to owning electronic devices such as laptops and mobile phones due to restrictions from their families and partners. Equally, it is important to recognise that merely having internet access or possessing a device can faciliitate insecurity and violence in countries where so-called ‘honour killings’ take place.
If the internet cannot be accessed by the majority of the female population, then it cannot be a feminist space. The design of digital technologies needs to account for the experiences, unique needs and risks of women and gender minorities.
Online, women are regularly subjected to abuse, harassment, threats and manipulation in ways that have real-world consequences. This is exacerbated by a lack of adequate safeguards and knowledge regarding consent and privacy online. Compounding this situation is that fact that not only do online spaces reflect prevailing patriarchal social attitudes (for example, in South Asia), in the age of automation, they risk enshrining and amplifying them, rather than acting as a counterbalance or corrective.
Agency and expression are fundamental to feminist tech and feminist digital movements continue to play a positive role in creating a sense of collective empowerment. To protect these freedoms means enshrining resistance and dissent within in digital spaces.«
Who can inspire us with their work?
»DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline caters to women, activists and minorities who face targeted attacks and violence online. The Helpline is a women-led platform that operates on the feminist principles of gender-sensitivity and centering the experiences of survivors to provide legal advice, digital security support and mental health assistance. It works with social media platforms to develop escalation channels to remove harmful content, and by identifying trends emerging from data at the Helpline, the team also develops training sessions on online safety practices for young women, students, journalists and professionals to prevent these and other forms of violence.« – Nighat Dad
Chayn is a global, survivor-led nonprofit which creates online, intersectional resources to support the healing of survivors of gender-based violence. Chayn flips the design and puts marginalised people at its heart. Product development is informed by user interviews which seek consent at every stage of the research process – including final review and sign-off of any materials produced – though clear, concise forms in accessible formats. By always protecting user anonymity, and by investing in simple, soothing UX and additional safety features, such as exit buttons, Chayn creates safety in their services.