Women’s rights and threats to online freedom: reflections from the Freedom Online Conference 17 to 18 June 2013
From 17 to 18 June 2013 I took part in the conference on online freedom known as Freedom Online. This conference, carrying the same name of the coalition behind it, highlighted the continent in which it was hosted.
On May 21 more than a hundred organisations lead by Women, Action & the Media, the journalist Soraya Chemaly, and The Everyday Sexism Project started a campaign to Take action to end gender-based violence on Facebook.
Last month a coalition of women’s organisations led a campaign to hold Facebook accountable for its content policy. In particular, how it deals with hateful speech and representations of gender-based violence shared by its users. In response, freedom of expression advocates have expressed concern and criticism over the precedent set by demands for Facebook to remove hateful content from its site.
Sexist, gender-based violent speech is a norm today. Sign in, check your home page and somewhere on that or over the timeline you’ll be linked to a page or a photo which only serves to demean the existence of woman. What’s worse is finding some of your friends making jokes about it. But should that be a norm too? Finding your friends making rape and other gender-based jokes? No, it’s NOT funny!
The “Take action to end gender-based violence on Facebook” campaign, or #FBrape campaign, co-signed by the APC Women´s Rights Programme, triggered interesting, timely, and necessary debates around freedom of expression, censorship, privacy, and intermediary liability. Read the collection of GenderIT.org Feminist Talk discussions.
(Margarita Salas’ blog post for GenderIT.org Feminist Talk) When we talk about freedom of expression we are within the paradigm of human rights. Human rights are indivisible, interrelated and interdependent, which means that the improvement of one right facilitates advancement of the others and the deprivation of one right adversely affects the others.
Facebook has long allowed content endorsing violence against women.
Many gender equality and women’s empowerment related events are taking place at the World Summit on the Information Society Forum in Geneva. Jac sm Kee from APC Women’s Rights Programme participated in the High Level Dialogue on “Women’s Empowerment in the Information Society: Systemic, Scalable Strategies.”
One of the main complaints by women during the discussions at the World Summit on the Information Society focused on the need for more women to participate in decisions about the development of the Internet, and the discussion and implementation of public policies aimed at building an inclusive information society, without discrimination based on gender or any other grounds.
To publicly challenge increasing censorship, surveillance and internet filtering in Pakistan, APC member Bytes for All, and Media Legal Defense Imitative lodged a petition in the Lahore High Court in January 2013 claiming that the bans imposed on various websites were in blatant violation of civil and political rights.