From our Director
An organisation does not survive and grow for 25 years without a lot of help. I therefore want to focus the introduction to this 25th anniversary edition of the APC Annual Report to thank APC's founders and everyone else who has been or is part of APC, or who has supported our work in one way or another.
APC is an enduring collective. Everyone who is in it and who invests in it emotionally or otherwise leaves their mark on it. And the other way round. Someone once said to me, in the context of a discussion about the vastness of the APC network, that “APC is like the Borg”1– a fictional “people” from Star Trek: The Next Generation whose slogan is: “Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.”
This is not an entirely flattering comparison, nor is it true. APC might leave its mark on people and organisations that are, or have been, part of the network, but it also respects their independence and individuality.
From modest but ambitious roots dating back to the late 1980s, before its founding in 1990, APC has grown into a strong network with 47 organisational members and 26 individual members, mostly from the global South, as of the end of 2015.
APC started out as a tech innovator: APC built its own networking software, “Pnotes”, and founding member in Brazil, IBASE/Alternex, with support from the broader APC community, provided the first-ever online information sharing and remote participation hub in Rio at the UN Earth Summit in 1992; APC member in the UK, GreenNet, acted as a hub for local networks in more than 40 countries in Asia, Africa and Central and Eastern Europe; and APC member in the US, IGC, developed the first graphic user interface for using public email and online discussion groups (known as newsgroups at the time) – to mention just a few examples. In subsequent years, it made the transition to providing services, support and training in using ICTs strategically to thousands of activists and civil society organisations, and eventually to becoming a significant actor in internet governance rights arenas, multiplying and amplifying voices from civil society, from developing countries and from marginalised communities in decision-making spaces.
APC and its members, as well as the policy spaces they work in and the governments they interact with, "grew up" together during these many years, reaching a level of dialogue that was unthinkable many years ago. When APC's founders first dreamt of people connecting and collaborating for peace and justice using electronic communications, it was the mid-1980s and no one imagined that only 30 years later there would be more than three billion people connected to an “internet”. But they did know that they were part of something special, that connecting people, organisations and computers working for positive social change was powerful.
We want to thank each and all of APC's founders, who took up the challenge 25 years ago to create something new and daring. They believed in the power of solidarity, of people's movements, of technology being mobilised for social justice – a belief that continues to inspire the APC community today. Thanks also to APC's many supporters: those who provided funds, those who volunteered their time and ideas and other resources.
But most of all, thank you to APC's members. Networking is easier these days. In fact, many of us suffer from some form or other of networking fatigue. This is not true for the APC network. Perhaps it is because of the diversity of members – different types of work, different approaches, ages, histories, but with a shared commitment to social justice. A special welcome to the new members who joined in 2015: the Centre for Information Technology and Development in Nigeria, Fundación REDES in Bolivia, and Media Matters for Democracy in Pakistan.
Thanks to the incredible and indomitable APC staff team who survived another year of long hours, airports, impossible deadlines, and online meetings that keep breaking up due to connectivity hassles.
Last, but not least, thank you to everyone who joined APC in celebrating our first 25 years. It started with a cake baked by our member CIPESA in Kampala at the Forum on Internet Freedom in East Africa in September, and became a round-the-world “partying process” in which many APC founders and past staff members participated. Some sent pictures or anecdotes. Others – hundreds of people, actually – attended our rather crazy and noisy party in Joao Pessoa, Brazil during the Internet Governance Forum, including three very special guests: past staff members Edie Farwell, APC's first ever coordinator and executive director; Karen Higgs, APC's communications manager for more than a decade; and Vanessa Purper, APC's events organiser for most of the 2000s. Also with us in Brazil was Carlos Afonso, as vital to our member network today as he was at the founding meeting in Nijmegen in 1990. Another of APC's founders, Ian Peter, had hoped to join us but was unfortunately kept from doing so for health reasons. It is to them and all of the founders of the APC network that I would like to dedicate this report.
Anriette Esterhuysen, Executive Director of APC
From our Chair
I have the good fortune of being surrounded by many people who have been pioneers and visionaries and who have shown me the power of information and communications technologies (ICTs) for development and social justice. They have always been my support and inspiration to develop the work that we began at Colnodo in Colombia in 1993.
It was in 1992 that I first met the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) through Carlos Afonso from Brazil. It was during the Interdoc conference held in Epe, the Netherlands, and hosted by Antenna.
A couple of years before that meeting, in 1990, networks in Sweden (NordNet), Canada (The Web, now Web Networks), Brazil (IBASE), Nicaragua (Nicarao) and Australia (Pegasus) were exchanging information with each other and with the Institute for Global Communications (IGC) in the United States and GreenNet in the United Kingdom. In May 1990, these seven organisations founded APC in order to coordinate the operation and development of this emerging global network of networks. No internet platforms were used at that time; all the technology was based on software developed by APC which allowed networks to exchange information. Without any doubt, these organisations were pioneers in the use of ICTs for social justice and development.
After this initial contact, Carlos Afonso encouraged us to start a project in Colombia to establish a “node” linked to the APC networks and to become members of APC. A “node” was a system that allowed providing connectivity and services to NGOs and organisations working for development.
We received support from many APC members, especially from IGC, to solve technical problems and to get the connection to the rest of the network. I also remember that Mike Jensen helped us to tune up our connectivity over very poor-quality telephone land lines.
And so, during the 1990s, we built that network that served NGOs and civil society working for development.
I was part of that experience, and I have to say that it has been an incredible journey in which we have had guidance from APC, helping us to adapt to the continuous changes that occurred when the internet started and after that, when commercial companies began to get interested in using the network for business purposes.
During all these years, we have received numerous recognitions for our work and for the hard work done by the executive director, the executive board, the staff of APC and our members. To mention just a few:
- Anriette Esterhuysen and APC were recognised with the 2015 Pioneer Award by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).
- In 2014, the Feminist Tech eXchange (FTX), one of the most innovative initiatives in APC's history, won the GEM-TECH Award from UN Women and the ITU.
- LACNIC Outstanding Achievement Awards have been presented to Ermanno Pietrosemoli from Venezuelan APC member EsLaRed (2014), APC policy programme manager Valeria Betancourt (2012), and Carlos Afonso from Brazilian member organisation Nupef (2010).
- In 2013, Colnodo and the Colombian Ministry of ICTs were awarded the WSIS Project Prize in the category of “Cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and local content” for the project En mi idioma ("In my language"), while in 2012, APC won the same award for the Global Information Society Watch (GISWatch) project, in the category of “The role of public governance authorities and all stakeholders in the promotion of ICTs for development”.
- In 2013, APC member in India Digital Empowerment Foundation was the winner of the ITU-MCMC Contest to Promote the Transformational Power of Broadband – Connecting at the Roots.
- Also in 2013, APC Executive Director Anriette Esterhuysen and Finance Manager Karen Banks were inducted by the Internet Society (ISOC) into the Internet Hall of Fame and were honoured in the category of Global Connectors as individuals who have made significant contributions to the global growth and use of the internet.
- “Love Letter to the Soldier”, a film by Indonesia-based APC member EngageMedia, won the South to South Festival 2012 Award for Best Documentary.
- PROTEGE QV, our member in Cameroon, was the African winner of the 2010 International Software Freedom Day competition.
- In 2008, EsLaRed received the prestigious Jonathan B. Postel Service Award from ISOC.
It has been an exciting 25 years, as our seven founding member organisations have developed into a vibrant association of 47 organisational members in 33 countries and 26 individual members in 22 countries.
After 25 years, the networks have evolved, and we now focus our work on internet access, internet governance, transformative technology, ending technology-based violence against women and community networking, which are the five key result areas of our current strategic plan.
I want to thank all the people in APC and beyond who have made our work possible during these 25 years. It is my hope that we can continue working together for a better world.
Julián Casasbuenas G., Chair of the Executive Board of APC
Securing and defending internet access and rights
Twenty-five "watchers", Global Information Society Watch (GISWatch) authors, organised local launches in 19 countries to highlight national reports from the 2014 edition, "Communications surveillance in the digital age". The events brought local awareness of the implications of surveillance in the national contexts of Australia, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzgovina, Cameroon, Colombia, Costa Rica, Hungary, Romania, Senegal and Uganda.
APC links anonymity, encryption and freedom of expression, addressing sexual orientation and gender identity
UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye reaffirmed the freedom to use encryption technology and communicate anonymously in his 2015 report in which he addresses the use of encryption and anonymity in digital communications. Aspects of our submission are mentioned in the report, specifically formalising the articulation between sexual orientation and gender identity, and anonymity and encryption tools, establishing why an open and free internet is important in the realisation of sexual rights. Kaye's report also states that governments should promote the use of strong encryption technologies and anonymity online and that companies should adopt encryption and other privacy-enhancing measures to safeguard the security of users, points that we reinforced in a joint civil society statement to the Human Rights Council (HRC).
APC encouraged governments to support the creation of a Special Rapporteur with a mandate to provide guidance on the scope and content of the right to privacy. We welcomed the appointment of Joseph Cannataci as the first United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy. The appointment of the first UN Special Rapporteur in this area is a historic step to address the right to privacy at the global level.
Drafters and promoters of the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms unanimously adopted and issued resolutions to popularise and implement the Declaration. A diversity of civil society organisations in Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda, as well as international partners in the United Kingdom, were represented at the March 2015 meeting where the resolutions were reached.
Local, collective influence at the Human Rights Council
APC, with partners, submitted a statement on the Universal Periodic Review of Egypt, focusing on the situation of women human rights defenders. Together with the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and the International Lesbian and Gay Association, we delivered another statement highlighting the importance of encryption and anonymity for sexual rights, particularly for people who face discrimination and persecution based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. And we called for urgent attention to the deteriorating situation in Malaysia with regard to the rights to freedom of expression and association.
Women's rights and ICT for development organisations, UN agencies, health providers, legislators, policy makers and justice enforcement bodies gained access to new learnings and challenges which should guide their next steps in their commitments to eradicate violence against women and offer support to survivors. These learnings and challenges were identified by all actors involved in APC and AZUR Development's project “Holding government accountable to gender-based violence in the Republic of Congo.”
APC gave support to initiatives that responded to threats to freedom of expression, privacy, access and other basic rights on the internet as part of the Local Actions to Secure Internet Rights (LASIR) project. LASIR empowered national activists to defend human rights on the internet in a diversity of countries: South Korea, Brazil, the Philippines, India, Jordan, Uganda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kenya and Tunisia.
APC's project to promote awareness among policy makers and regulators in Africa regarding the benefits of strategies to promote infrastructure sharing built on the report commissioned from Deloitte by holding three workshops in collaboration with the regional regulatory associations in the respective regions of Southern Africa (CRASA/SADC), West Africa (WATRA/ECOWAS) and East Africa (EACO/EAC). Policy makers and regulators from virtually all the countries in the three regions attended the two-day workshops.
APC works with local partners to build stronger relationships between sexual rights and internet rights movements. Together we have supported and deepened existing research on sex and technology, increased understanding of how sexual rights, internet freedoms and democratisation are connected, and helped to advance these across the internet rights ecosystem. In 2015, our work on sexual rights included the participation of two new national partners in Sri Lanka and Nepal, in addition to the continuing work with our partners in Turkey, South Africa, India and Indonesia. A highlight from our partners work was the meeting ‘Porn. Panic. Ban’ organised by Point of View, which brought together 50 people from different movements to interrogate the policy, discourse and legislative response to content on sexuality in India. APC supported the engagement and participation of our country partners in the Internet Governance Forum, which led to a first time and well attended panel on LGBT and the internet that extended the discussions at the IGF by bringing in critical absent perspectives. We released the results of a survey on sexuality and the internet and an in-depth analysis of selected case studies. The impact of the Facebook real name policy on the LGBTIQ community was presented at the 2015 IGF.
The second Imagine a Feminist Internet meeting took place in Malaysia in July 2015 as a continuation of the space opened in 2014. A group of 45 activists, researchers, academics and techies deepened the discussion around feminism and technology.
If implemented, the Draft Online Regulation Policy proposed by the South African Film and Publication Board would, under the guise of child protection, pose serious threats to online freedom of expression. APC joined the multistakeholder process with the participation of many South African civil society and broader communications sector voices that are expressing their concern about the proposed regulations, debating about their impact on human rights online and advocating around the adoption of good practices for the government to reinforce its rights responsibilities and record.
Human rights defenders, including activists working on gender and sexual rights, are increasingly experiencing technology-related human rights violations. As a response to these challenges, APC carried out an internet rights training exchange in Jakarta, the first in a series of capacity-building activities for our partners in India, Malaysia and Pakistan. An introduction to the Feminist Principles of the Internet was a major milestone in the integration between women's rights, sexual rights and internet rights work.
Web We Want grants promote African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms in seven countries
In 2015, Web We Want, in collaboration with APC, awarded small grants to promote the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms, including one to APC member PROTEGE QV in Cameroon. In addition, the Web We Want campaign worked in collaboration with APC to award five small grants to Asociația pentru Tehnologie și Internet, the Calyx Institute, European Digital Rights Initiative, Nuvem Estacao de Arte e Tecnologia and Proyecto MartAdero, organisations leading local campaign efforts to promote a free and open web.
Those with internet access are more likely to enjoy the potential realisation of rights, while those without access lack such potential. Additionally, the control of technologies is not necessarily in the hands of traditional duty bearers in human rights law. In such a scenario, what is the relationship between access to the internet and the frameworks to allow internet access as a right? The fundamental link between access and economic, social and cultural rights (ESCRs) are presented in the paper "Internet access and economic, social and cultural rights". And we discussed the issues surrounding strategies for cooperation with the technical community in the effort to advance ESCRs on the internet in a new paper, "How the technical community frames the Internet and economic, social and cultural rights".
In 2015, APC worked with members and partners in India, Malaysia and Pakistan to protect and promote human rights on the internet by developing a baseline for research into technology-related human rights violations. The reports "India: Limited Access Restricting Expression", "Status of Freedom of Expression Online: Malaysia" and "Expression Restricted: An Account of Online Expression in Pakistan" found that while violations are commonplace, few human rights defenders and civil society organisations have the capacity to identify and respond to technology-related human rights violations.
How does the politics of sex and sexual rights activism take place online? How are generally accepted sexual identities, as well as marginalised sexualities, expressed, regulated and moralised on the internet? The 2015 edition of the Global Information Society Watch report highlighted the politics of sex and sexual rights online. It reflected on the way sexual identity is both expressed and marginalised. Stories were submitted on sexual rights and the internet from 52 countries, and explored issues ranging from the challenges and possibilities that the internet offers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities, to female genital mutilation, the right to legal abortions, the rights of sex workers, criminalisation of sexual expression, and sex education in schools, among others.
With member Derechos Digitales in Chile and Coding Rights in Brazil, APC produced a report on the most relevant events with respect to human rights and the internet in 2015. The report was launched with an event hosted at the Internet Governance Forum in Joao Pessoa, Brazil. The 17-page report and its launch event addressed a comprehensive range of issues including network neutrality, cyber security, freedom of expression, intellectual property and the right to privacy.
The pre-event called “Unboxing Gender and Access”1 hosted by APC WRP at the 2015 Stockholm Internet Forum invited over 160 participants to interactively explore the multiple dimensions and intersectionalities of gender and access. It offered an honest and collaborative excavation of the gender access gap in order to understand and upfront the challenges, intersectionalities and barriers.
Regional Consultation on Expression, Opinion and Religious Freedoms in Asia
In June 2015, Bytes for All, Pakistan in association with APC and several other partners in Asia organised the Regional Consultation on Expression, Opinion and Religious Freedoms in Asia, held in Jakarta, Indonesia. David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, gave the keynote address at this pioneering regional event, which brought together more than 140 human rights defenders, civil society leaders, journalists, bloggers and specialists on the subject including former UN Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue. A nine-country mapping study was also launched at the event, highlighting gaps in existing laws governing religious expression.
The objectives of the Jakarta consultation included ascertaining future advocacy goals in the region at national levels and at the UN; exploring the role of the internet in promoting religious tolerance; raising awareness about the Rabat Plan of Action on the prohibition of advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence; and involving stakeholders in the debate on freedom of expression and religion. One of the main outcomes of the event was the development of the Jakarta Recommendations,1 aimed at different stakeholders including governments, legislators, the judiciary, the media and CSOs.
Mapping the path for internet freedoms in Africa
Towards the end of 2015, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) under the OpenNet Africa initiative convened the Second Forum on Internet Freedoms in East Africa in Kampala, Uganda. The forum brought together over 200 participants from 19 countries across the continent and beyond to deliberate on internet freedom matters. Over the course of two days, discussions explored the increasing cases of violence against women online; hate speech online; promoting access to information; the nexus between human rights defenders, activists and technology developers; freedom of artistic and creative expression; violations of freedom of expression and free media, especially during election periods; and the proliferation of repressive laws with limited judicial oversight over surveillance and interception of communications, among others. Participants also discussed the need for increased awareness of digital safety tools and practices in Africa as enablers of freedom of expression and access to information. The forum culminated in a series of recommendations including a call for increased transparency by government and service providers in addressing online crimes such as hate speech, fraud and defamatory cases; the need for the media to play an active role in advocating for internet freedom; and the need to address gaps in existing laws that do not adequately protect citizens from mass surveillance and privacy infringements.2
Derechos Digitales: Fighting surveillance in court – and winning
In August 2015, residents and visitors in the Chilean municipalities of Las Condes and Lo Barnechea saw their right to privacy seriously threatened, when the municipalities announced the implementation of an aggressive surveillance programme, with high-definition cameras mounted on balloons floating over the city, recording the daily activities of millions of people. The justification? Fighting crime, through the use of military technology used in conflict zones like the Gaza Strip.
Aside from the fact that municipal governments do not have the legal authority to carry out this kind of arbitrary mass surveillance, and the system would actually be administered by a private sector company in the case of Lo Barnechea, the programme would also violate the constitutional rights to privacy and to the sanctity of the home. This is why Derechos Digitales joined with two other local organisations, Fundación Datos Protegidos and Corporación Fundamental y Libertades Públicas, to file a suit on constitutional grounds before the Court of Appeals of Santiago, to halt this dangerous attack on privacy.
The Court unanimously ruled in favour of the suit, and ordered the immediate cessation of the use of the surveillance balloons. The case was moved up to the Supreme Court, where a final verdict is pending.
Working for digital rights in Southeast Asia
Following the success of the RightsCon Southeast Asia event that we co-hosted in Manila in 2015, EngageMedia has been writing, researching and organising to improve the state of digital rights in the region.
In partnership with the Sinar Project in Malaysia, we organised a discussion with local civil society organisations about online privacy, freedom of expression and innovation, and particularly threats faced by politicians and activists.3
Wanting to create spaces for deeper conversations and strategies on pressing digital rights issues in Indonesia, we conducted a meeting in Jakarta in collaboration with SAFENET, an Indonesian digital rights advocacy non-profit.4
In Bangkok, Thailand, a public forum we held with the Thai Netizen Network saw expert speakers presenting their critique of pending internet laws in Thailand, where the junta cabinet passed eight new draft bills under the banner of “Digital Economy”.5
FMA promotes Philippine Declaration on Internet Rights and Principles
On 4 November 2015, the Philippine Declaration on Internet Rights and Principles6 was launched after several months of collective drafting and consultations with civil society internet rights groups and the ICT policy community.
The initiative for the creation of the Declaration was launched during the Philippine Multistakeholder Forum on Internet Governance, Human Rights and Development organised by the Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA) on 23 March 2015. It was inspired by similar initiatives of a global or national scope (e.g. Brazil). A drafting team consisting of individuals from diverse backgrounds developed the content of the declaration. FMA also conducted broad consultations in Metro Manila, Davao City and Cebu City from August to October 2015 to solicit inputs on the initial draft. The content of the declaration was also made available online for inputs and suggestions from those who could not join the face-to-face consultations.
The Declaration focused on 10 areas: internet access for all; democratising the architecture of the internet; freedom of expression and association; right to privacy and protection of personal data; gender equality; openness and access to information, knowledge and culture; socioeconomic empowerment and innovation; education and digital literacy; liberty, safety and security on the internet; and internet and ICTs for environmental sustainability.
The Declaration is a reflection of the dreams, hopes and aspirations of Filipinos of what the Philippine internet should be. It hopes to serve as the basis for public education, advocacy, networking and campaigns on ICT, human rights and development. As of end-2015, 23 organisations had signed the declaration, with many more expressing interest.
The fight against communication surveillance in South Korea
In 2015, Jinbonet took action on a range of issues related to the communication rights of users in South Korea. One of the big issues was the surveillance of instant messenger services, which had been raised by an incident in 2014, when an investigative agency seized and searched the messages communicated through KakaoTalk, the most popular messenger service in South Korea. The agency captured the private messages of 2,368 users who had been in the same chat rooms with the target of the investigation. After the incident, a group of 19 organisations including Jinbonet formed the Urgent Action Network against Cyber Surveillance, which launched a campaign to reform current legislation on the protection of users' communication rights. One of the actions undertaken by the network was the drafting of a bill to revise the Protection of Communications Secrets Act (PCSA) or so-called “cyber surveillance prohibition act”. They succeeded in getting the bill proposed in the National Assembly on May 2015.
May First/People Link and the net neutrality vote
In February 2015, the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed a measure guaranteeing the neutrality of the internet and treating internet technology as a common carrier under Title II regulations. That means it is treated like telephone service – without pricing and service tiers – and unlike cable television.
This was an enormous victory for the free internet movement, which organised a grassroots campaign involving millions of people, four million of whom contacted the FCC urging the granting of net neutrality and combined that with strategic lobbying. Large coalitions of organisations that seldom work together were built around the principle, and large numbers of people who were unaware of these issues were mobilised.
As a leader of the Media Action Grassroots Network, May First/People Link was one of the leaders in this struggle and organised and participated in grassroots organising, lobbying Congress and the FCC (a critical part of the campaign), and spreading the message nationally through statements, articles and conference presentations. The grassroots work made all the difference: several FCC staff and commissioners credited the street rallies and four million emails with "firming up" their final decision.
The human race is facing a struggle for its own survival and it can't win that struggle without a free and fully accessible internet. It's the way we communicate worldwide: sharing information, support and thinking. This was an important step in guaranteeing the future of that critically important technology.
MMfD working on model journalist safety legislation with union of journalists
With over 115 journalists and media workers killed in the line of duty since the year 2000, Pakistan remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. To date only four cases among 115 have seen any form of conviction, and impunity remains high. To tackle this issue, the Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD) team has been advocating for the adoption of special legislation for journalists’ safety.
In late 2015, the Senate took up two private member bills dealing with media safety and welfare. Following that, a senate sub-committee and an inter-ministerial working committee were set up to work exclusively on journalist safety legislation. The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) was officially included in the working committee and invited MMfD team members to become a part of the process. On the government’s request, we began the work on drafting model legislation. For this purpose, various consultations were held with media stakeholders, and recommendations were shared with the government. Work on the model legislation continued throughout the year, and will culminate in 2016 with the submission of the draft to the government to feed into an official Journalist Safety Bill.
Exploring the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms with secondary school students
On 17 September 2015, as part of the activities to mark Software Freedom Day, PROTEGE QV organised a contest for secondary school students to promote the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms, held at the École Nationale Supérieure Polytechnique in Yaoundé, Cameroon. Each of the participating students was asked to interpret one of the Declaration's 13 principles in their own words and then share it with the rest of the participants. The goal was to foster deeper understanding and a sense of ownership of the Declaration's contents. The students were awarded prizes for successful interpretations, and all of them also received a copy of the Declaration in booklet form.
Research on criminalisation of the right to freedom of speech
In 2015, Voices for Interactive Choice and Empowerment (VOICE) closely monitored freedom of expression online, and produced a research report on “Criminalization of the right to freedom of speech”, an issue that has been a growing concern in Bangladesh. The study found that that Bangladesh has become authoritative in controlling the voices of online activists and other internet users, through the ICT Act (Amended) 2013 in particular. Other laws and policies used as the basis for controlling freedom of expression both online and offline include the Penal Code of 1860, the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1898, the Contempt of Court Act of 1926, the Telegraph Act of 1885, the Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1933, and many others.
The motivations behind the control are seen as political, while law enforcement agencies arrest bloggers and social media activists, slap them with criminal charges and put them in jail. The report found that restrictions on online media pose a severe threat to users, thus curbing freedom of expression seriously.
The most significant threats to freedom of expression online are content blocking and targeting by the executive organs and judiciary of individuals who take to the internet to voice critical opinions. Netizens and activists face the significant risk of crossing certain lines in their online posting, such as calling for protests, exploring official and non-official corruption, or criticising high officials, the judiciary or even the “government machinery” including the president and prime minister of Bangladesh.
Fostering good internet governance
The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) process and its outcome documents are considered cornerstones of international norms and discourse on internet policy and governance. In 2015 WSIS marked its 10th anniversary and the UN General Assembly set a year-long agenda to evaluate its progress and decide its future, a process in which APC was very active.
We participated in each of the open consultations in collaboration with partners and members, putting people's rights at the centre, in the face of increasing political and commercial control of internet spaces.
Always in collaboration with other civil society groups, we submitted a statement outlining the WSIS goal of a “people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society”, where everyone can create, access, use and share information to fully promote sustainable development and improve their quality of life. We co-organised a side event for non-governmental stakeholders to share and exchange their views and priorities with governments on WSIS+10 in a dynamic, interactive setting. We published a book on the multistakeholder experiment that helped bring the WSIS to a successful conclusion: the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG), reflecting on WGIG's procedural and substantive contributions to the evolving global internet governance dialogue and institutional ecosystem. The WSIS+10 review culminated in a high-level meeting at the UN General Assembly in New York, in which APC participated.
APC mobilised for the 10th annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Joao Pessoa, Brazil in November 2015 by leading and participating in workshops and side events and prompting dialogue around internet rights, public access and digital privacy. APC played a key role in influencing internet governance around the world. In particular, we reflect that after nine years of struggling to bring gender and sexual rights issues out of the peripheries, the link between gender and internet governance is increasingly recognised. One major highlight in this is the APC Women's Rights Programme's core participation in the Best Practice Forum on Online Abuse and Gender-Based Violence Against Women panel, which convened many multisectoral voices to give and receive feedback on the intensive intersessional work process, and in particular on the report developed by the multistakeholder group. Nadine Moawad, APC's sexual rights project coordinator, spoke at the IGF closing ceremony. “Freedom of speech is not the freedom to offend people who are weaker than you; is not the freedom to push down people who are already battling against complexes of military, war, racism, genocide (…) Freedom of speech is our right to offend those who are untouchable, those who are protected by media, by banks, by armies,” Moawad emphasised to a standing ovation. The Gender Report Card was fully and formally adopted by the IGF and the results were published on their site. This comes as a successful result of APC's long way piloting and advocating for the formal implementation of a gender report card as a way to monitor and assess the level of gender parity and inclusion in the IGF space, since 2012 in the IGF in Nairobi. Members and partners such as the Foundation for Media Alternatives and Point of View, took over the coordination of the IGF Gender Dynamic Coalition and, amongst other progressive initiatives, they led a conversation and work towards developing a sexual harassment policy for the forum.
Online challenges in the Middle East and North Africa range from state surveillance to online violence against women. Prior to the Arab IGF, APC and other civil society organisations strengthened alignment and built capacity in internet rights advocacy in Lebanon and the rest of the region through an Internet Policy Camp in Beirut. The participants explored a regionally focused document advocating internet access as a fundamental right and another on the implementation of the 13 Necessary and Proportionate Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance in Tunisia.
In order to contribute to the strengthening of internet governance processes and spaces in the region, APC organised and supported a series of events that took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on different dates during September 2015, scheduled around the African IGF. These included the third African School on Internet Governance, organised by APC and the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency, as well as a Gender and Internet Governance eXchange (gigX).
APC and partners used the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) IGF to promote a regional rights agenda, which led to the drafting and signing by civil society organisations of a Latin American declaration on the challenges of internet governance. In addition, APC participated in many events and hosted a Gender and Internet Governance eXchange (gigX), whose participants pushed LAC IGF panellists to examine governance concerns with a gendered lens. Derechos Digitales and APC hosted a panel and dialogue on online harassment immediately after the LAC IGF that drew youth, policy makers and representatives from the private sector. Through a collaborative effort between the eLAC process and the LAC IGF, an internet governance panel was organised for the Fifth Ministerial Conference on the Information Society in Latin America and the Caribbean. APC was invited to share a civil society perspective on the challenges of internet governance in the region.
APC organised three Gender and Internet eXchanges (gigX) in three regions, prior to the regional IGF meetings. A total of 68 women's rights, internet rights and sexual rights advocates were invited to exchange knowledge on the intersections of women's rights and internet governance. The Asia gigX took place in July in the Philippines, with the Foundation for Media Alternatives as the host for the event. In Latin America, it was held in Mexico City in August, while the Africa gigX took place in September in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The gigX in these three regions enabled a greater participation and representation of women in the regional IGFs, which resulted in a greater visibility of gender, women's rights and sexuality issues in the debates, and significant contributions towards changing the substance of regional discussions on internet governance.
APC created a resource for civil society attending the fourth Global Conference on Cyberspace, which took place in The Hague in April 2015. The guide addressed key issues of cybersecurity policy relevant to human rights both at the GCCS and in other cybersecurity policy-making spaces. In response to the event, we developed a statement on the issues discussed and what needs to be addressed before the next conference in 2017. Doors to cybersecurity spaces have recently opened to civil society participation and APC and its members are establishing their committment to work on human rights issues within this policy space.
APC published an issue paper that addresses the degree to which gender and women's rights feature in internet governance, in multiple interconnected ways including, but certainly not limited to, access, content and representation. Gender and women's rights occupy a largely rhetorical role in today's discussion of internet governance.
Commemorating Heike Jensen and her contributions to feminist internet governance theory and research
News of Heike Jensen’s death from cancer, on 3 February 2014, reached internet governance academic and civil society networks a year later. As Marianne Franklin, friend and colleague from GigaNet, puts it: “The networks and the hands-on work in which Heike engaged are cross-border, cross-sector and interdisciplinary by nature and predilection. This is why news of her death has been a ripple of both physical and virtual proportions.” A GenderIT.org edition was produced in tribute to this amazing woman who contributed to our ability to question, interrogate and rebuild the institutions and architecture of the internet in more equitable ways.
CITAD Deepens grassroots engagement with internet governance
The internet is a critical resource for development, yet discussion around its governance and policy making at the national level has tended to be limited to a few elites. This is seen in the very fact that the Internet Governance Forum is structured from the national level upward, which means the vast majority of the people have been left out. It was in recognition of this that the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) decided to drive the process down to the grassroots by embarking on an awareness-raising campaign in the northern part of Nigeria. This culminated in the hosting of the first sub-national platform to discuss internet governance. Held on 3 November 2015, in Kano, the North West Zonal Internet Governance Forum brought together over 100 people from all seven states of the zone, covering a broad spectrum of stakeholders. The Forum, which had the blessing of the Nigeria Internet Governance Forum, served as part of the national IGF preparation. One of the key outcomes was that it raised awareness about the IGF, leading to the demand for setting up a remote site in Kano for people to follow the global IGF in Joao Pessoa, Brazil. Consequently, on 11 November 2015, CITAD opened up the site for three days, allowing over 150 people to follow various sessions of the IGF. Learning from the success of this zonal forum, the Nigeria Internet Governance Forum has requested CITAD to organise similar events in the remaining five zones of the country.
First national Internet Governance Forum in Bosnia and Herzegovina
On 1 October 2015, Bosnia and Herzegovina held its first national Internet Governance Forum (IGF), convened by OneWorld Platform (OWP), together with the Communications Regulatory Agency and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
An entire day was devoted to present, discuss and understand what internet governance means at the national level. More than 150 participants, including both local and international experts, engaged in the conversation. The issues addressed ranged from cyber crime and women's experience of harassment online, to surveillance, hate speech, digital identities, and the risks faced by women, LGBTIQ and people with disabilities, among others.
We spoke about mechanisms and possibilities of the state and public institutions to protect citizens while respecting privacy, but we also reflected on the necessity of rapid response in a fast-changing technological environment and the challenge for the state and judicial system to keep up with the pace.
Two elements need to be highlighted: the emphasis on achieving a 50/50 gender balance throughout the event, and the commitment to ensuring an inclusive forum accessible to everyone, because access is the first step to foster participation, promote dialogue and generate changes.
The event was made possible with the strategic support of APC, ICANN, CoE, OSCE, Diplo Foundation, RIPE NCC and CORE Association.
Greater transparency and accountability through ICTs
WOUGNET’s greatest achievement of 2015 was the evidence from our project evaluation and impact assessments that our initiatives, network and platforms continue to impact local communities and citizens for the full realisation of the efficient and effective use of information and communications technologies (ICTs) in addressing sustainable development issues. In 2015, our primary efforts were geared towards addressing governance, social service delivery, as well as transparency and accountability challenges at grassroots levels. With funding support from Indigo Trust, Spider and Sida, WOUGNET was able to make a significant impact on how local service delivery eventually benefits local communities. We are also happy to have built the capacity of many women and girls, men and boys to use ICTs to document and report service delivery concerns and also to hold duty bearers accountable. All these achievements would have not been possible without financial support from our funding partners.
Strengthening use and development of transformative technology
For its 25th anniversary, APC re-launched its Betinho Communications Prize, named for Herbert de Souza ("Betinho."), which is awarded to recognise significant contributions to using the internet for social justice and development. The award ceremony was held at APC's 25th anniversary party in Joao Pessoa, Brazil during the 10th global IGF. Carlos Afonso was the winner of the Prize for his many years of work dedicated to promoting the internet as a tool for social justice and development.
APC hosted Andrea Del Río, a feminist activist and technologist from Peru, as part of the 2015 Open Web Fellows programme. The Open Web Fellowship is an international leadership initiative by the Ford Foundation and Mozilla. For 10 months, Del Río used her cutting-edge technology skills alongside APC policy experts to safeguard the internet as a global public resource.
Tactical Technology Collective partnered with APC to host 76 women and a small group of men – human rights advocates, feminists, techies, activists – in an ageing East German "Schloss" (manor house) near the border of Poland for seven days of training, collaboration, discussion, and knowledge exchange on gender, feminism and technology.
APC hosted its third Disco-tech event at the global IGF to give civil society ICT policy advocates practical advice to protect themselves and their work. The annual event continues to explore issues relevant to policy advocates but in the realm of technology and tools. The 2015 event was hosted in Brazil and the main question asked was whether one can truly remain anonymous in the data society. Answer: Yes.
Take Back the Tech! joined an open call for women around the world to take part in #FemHack, a global hackathon to promote feminism online. We used it to amplify women's voices and continue our #imagineafeministinternet discussion.
In 2015, GenderIT.org turned 10 years old. In celebration, a new website design was launched, responding to what readers, writers and the team identified as necessary and desired changes. The new site development was done collaboratively between a partner, member and staff, all of them deeply committed to developing technology to meet women's needs.
ALIN: Spinning off an enterprise
In 2015, the Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) embarked on a new strategic plan aimed at consolidating the experiences gained over the last one and a half decades. The new plan is anchored on supporting agricultural production through information, knowledge provision and supporting the farmers to adapt to new ways of managing the effects of climate change. Under the technology and innovation programme, ALIN aims to support individuals with innovative ideas, developing these ideas from pilot to scale-up.
In the last two years, ALIN has successfully nurtured a social enterprise, Sokopepe Limited, which offers farmers information and knowledge management services, including the Farm Records Management Information Service (FARMIS) tool. FARMIS enables farmers to treat farming as a business, and aim for profit and sustainability. It allows farmers to track the different processes on the farm and keep an accurate record of their expenditure on purchasing inputs, tilling, planting, harvesting, post harvesting and selling. They can then easily compute their profits and use the system to generate a profit and loss statement. This is essential in developing a farmer profile for access to credit and support services.
With support from USAID through Land O’Lakes, Sokopepe was able to reach 6,300 farmers against a target of 5,000 during the proof of concept stage. The grant has been extended to cover the pilot stage with the aim of reaching 16,000 farmers. During the pilot, Sokopepe hopes to prove a business case that is sustainable.
Citizens observatory urges young Paraguayans to “kick up a fuss”
One of Asociación Trinidad: Comunicación, Cultura y Desarrollo’s main activities in 2015 was the project Mirá: Observatorio Ciudadano, a citizens’ observatory aimed at compiling, summarising and disseminating information on the performance of the municipal government councils of Asunción and Mariano Roque Alonso, and their members, during an eight-month period. The objective of the project was to offer quantitative information to the general public, community organisations, social movements, public and private institutions, political parties, business associations, business owners, etc.
The project also monitored the appearance of municipal government representatives in the press (in print and online), complaints and requests directed to the municipal councils by citizens, and the voting records and absences of council members during regular and special sessions.
A further goal of the Mirá: Observatorio Ciudadano project was to promote active and informed participation by young people in the 2015 municipal elections. The findings of the eight-month monitoring process carried out through the project served as the basis for an informational campaign aimed at young people voting for the first time. The name of the campaign was taken from Pope Francis’s message to youth from around the world gathered in Rio de Janeiro: “¡Hagan lío!” (“Kick up a fuss!”).
A poster contest was organised to encourage young people to participate in the 2015 municipal elections.
JuvenTIC: ICT capacity building for youth
In 2015 Colnodo, with the support of Google, implemented the JuvenTIC project, aimed at improving the living conditions of young Colombians through the strengthening of ICT capacities and skills, which will allow them to compete more effectively in the job market, earn higher incomes, and therefore be able to pursue higher level studies.
Colnodo has considerable experience in basic ICT training. However, as digital natives, young people demand programmes like JuvenTIC that will enable them to seek better employment, create their own small enterprises, or work in the content production industry.
JuvenTIC is targeted at young people between the ages of 16 and 28 who have not completed higher studies, who live in outlying areas or small municipalities, and who face conditions of vulnerability. The project offers a 120-hour training course that is certified as a diploma programme by a partner university. The subjects covered include online marketing, digital content design and production, and local information systems management.
During 2015, two training cycles were completed, attracting more than 7,000 applicants from throughout the country. Of these, 2,374 entered the training programme, and 972 were certified. The first graduation ceremony was held in Bogotá, with 120 young graduates from 28 towns and cities. It was attended by the Colombian minister of ICT and Vint Cerf, vice president and chief internet evangelist at Google.
In an evaluation of the programme, 94% of the young participants said JuvenTIC made a useful contribution to their futures, 91% said it had lived up to their expectations, and 98.4% said they would recommend the programme to others.
Preserving cultural and architectural heritage
Almost every Indian city is replete with rich culture, traditions, sacred spaces and historical sites that illustrate the country’s unique heritage. At a time of rapid modernisation of public spaces in India – sometimes to the detriment of heritage sites and cultural traditions – it becomes critical to preserve the real heritage, making it accessible to all for the sake of posterity. Since most heritage sites are not featured online, Digital Empowerment Foundation’s e-Heritage Project seeks to collaborate with communities to bring heritage and oral history into the digital space.
DEF has launched two pilot websites for Shahjahanabad (as the old city of Delhi is historically known) and Chanderi (in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh) to digitally enhance their heritage and showcase the potential of the areas through rich text, beautiful photographs and interesting videos.
The e-Heritage Project in Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi) is an ongoing initiative under which we document anecdotes and oral history. We also host an annual fellowship for youngsters from Old Delhi and heritage enthusiasts from New Delhi to carry out research on various topics, and regularly organise events and activities like heritage walks and story-telling sessions to involve the community.
In Chanderi, more than 300 heritage sites have already been given a digital presence. This online visibility of the heritage of Chanderi has played a key role in the decision of the Archaeological Survey of India to undertake the preservation and protection responsibilities of 40 monuments there. A boom in tourism in Chanderi can also be credited to the e-Heritage Project.
Meeting the challenge for a rural CBT centre
In April 2015, Fantsuam Foundation took a bold decision which was also a gamble. Our financial resources were drying up and we needed to quickly come up with alternative and sustainable sources of income for the organisation. This pressure helped us to see a possible area of service that could also be profitable: establishing a Computer-Based Test (CBT) centre.
The Nigerian educational system requires that all university applicants sit for a qualifying examination, online. This policy was lauded as timely and critical for the integrity of the examinations, except that not enough thought was given to the level of computer literacy of the students and the availability of relevant infrastructure for rural and remotely-based communities. As a promoter of internet access and skills for rural and under-served communities, this was a challenge that Fantsuam Foundation had to face.
The week of 7 March 2016 was an exciting one for everyone in Bayan Loco, Kafanchan, as the village hosted the largest number of visitors ever: during that one week, the newly opened CBT centre at Fantsuam Foundation hosted almost 3,000 students for the 2016 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME). This was a big dream come through.
Digital security training for human rights defenders, journalists and bloggers
As part of the ongoing efforts to promote both internet and traditional media freedoms, in July 2015 the Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet) conducted a digital security training event for human rights defenders, journalists and bloggers. The event had 25 participants who were taken through practical steps in evaluating the digital security tools and applications available and determining which ones they would need for their daily work. Ethical issues such as responsible speech and laws touching on digital expression were also covered. This was useful particularly to the journalists and bloggers, as there have been rising incidents of arrests among them over their online content.
KICTANet noted that more training and follow-up workshops need to be conducted. After returning to their daily routines, the participants sometimes stop using these safety tools because they lack people to use them with. There is still little awareness among activists and organisations on digital safety. KICTANet is partnering with more organisations in organising more trainings this year, some of which will specifically address women journalists' safety online.
Truthmeter.MK – holding politicians and institutions accountable
In order to enable the citizens of Macedonia to hold their politicians accountable and incite public institutions to become more transparent, Metamorphosis has been operating the Truthmeter web platform since 2011. Publishing in Macedonian, Albanian and English, it provides objective analyses of politicians' statements and fulfilment of election promises. Responding to the intensification of the political crisis spurred by the publication of leaked wiretaps at the beginning of 2015, revealing deep-rooted political corruption, the Truthmeter team created an archive of all related materials accompanied by analytical articles explaining the significance of the wiretaps’ contents from the perspective of human rights violations and other criminal activity.
In a situation of increased efforts to obstruct justice through use of captured state institutions, and intensified propaganda which includes direct pressure against civil society and independent media, this public record serves as a resource for civil society organisations and activists, investigative journalists and individual citizens demanding justice and restoration of democracy in Macedonia. In particular it is used as a reference by digital activists advocating privacy and freedom of expression, as well as protesters who need to overcome the spin and media manipulation prevalent in mainstream media.
The website receives around 5,000 visitors per day. All the content is licensed under Creative Commons and is available for republishing. Moreover, a dozen online media outlets in Macedonia regular republish articles from Truthmeter, increasing its outreach and impact.
Shining a light on “trigger-happy” police
During 2015, Nodo TAU began to work on the publication of a series of reports about a worrying number of cases of “gatillo fácil” – boys being shot and killed by “trigger-happy” security forces in doubtful situations – in the city of Rosario, Argentina. The stories were covered by a journalist and editor at enREDando, the Nodo TAU web portal that works with social organisations. This is a very valuable initiative that highlights certain commonalities in these cases, regarding the behaviour of the security forces, and the obstacles that these boys’ families face in access to justice. The stories are presented in a multimedia way, which includes detailed reports featured on a website and micro documentary videos about the stories and the struggle of the families involved. We developed this project in conjunction with a local cooperative of journalists.
Harnessing technology for enhanced service delivery
During 2015 Open Institute continued its work to ensure that technology can be used to facilitate fair and just development in Cambodia. In particular, it completed the Structuring Partnerships for an Innovative Communications Environment (SPICE) programme, designed to promote and deliver a greater diversity of information and services to the Cambodian public; to improve communications in Khmer using mobile devices; and to increase the capacity of civil society organisations and government to use communication technologies for development purposes. Over the two and a half years of the programme, SPICE delivered 37 technology solutions that helped civil society organisations and the Cambodian government magnify the impact of their programmes on their target beneficiaries. The programme, funded by USAID, reached directly or helped these partners reach over 1.2 million Cambodian citizens with information, services and training. It also reinforced the connection of civil society organisations among themselves, and succeeded in creating a strong youth movement centred on technological development, with over 16,000 participants in events organised by the programme.
The interactive voice response (IVR) platform created by SPICE – key to many of the applications developed – was given the award for Best ICT Solution for Development in Asia in 2014. One of the applications supported, a service that automatically calls new mothers and provides pre-recorded messages that are key for the health of the baby – done in collaboration with People in Need – was considered the best NGO application for development in ASEAN in 2015.
Generating agents of change with Generation 3.0
Cooperativa Sulá Batsú put its experience in innovation and entrepreneurship based on cooperative values and principles to work for the Generation 3.0 project, implemented in the community of Los Chiles in northern Costa Rica.
The main objective of Generation 3.0, implemented with the support of the Telefónica Foundation, was to generate agents of change in the community by way of hands-on training, developing content and tools to provide digital solutions to the needs identified by the community itself.
More than 120 young people were trained in various courses on ICT use. Each course was made up by six working sessions of six hours each. The young women and men participating in the project learned about the strategic use of basic tools, both computers and mobile phones, in addition to training in specific topics conducted with free applications that enable the design and development of enterprises and business opportunities.
Ending technology-based violence against women and girls
Take Back the Tech! campaign ignites sharing of strategies to counter online VAW
APC's Take Back the Tech! (TBTT) campaign was globally recognised by over 4,800 voters who made it the winner of the prestigious Bobs Award in the People's Choice for English category. Yet, despite global attention, technology-related violence against women (VAW) is still minimised and misunderstood. For the 2015 campaign during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, TBTT called for campaign participants to share their strategies and take back the tech!
TBTT and the Oaxaca Cyberfeminist Fair: Feminist internet here and now!
The Oaxaca Cyberfeminist Fair was fun on overdrive, with stands to dismantle and re-build your computer, play Trans-Hack-Fem Bingo to learn about women in tech and digital security, do-it-yourself collages to question gender binaries, knitting as an intro to programming, the launch of a local mesh network idea and, of course, a machitroll piñata to symbolise the online mysogyny that Take Back the Tech! fights against. At the fair women took control of technology via an autonomous cell phone network whose terms of service included the Feminist Principles of the Internet. TBTT campaigner Palabra Radio in Oaxaca organised the fair with feminist techies and activists from Mexico City, Puebla, Guadalajara and Chiapas, and the organisation Rhizomatica in Oaxaca.
Throughout the month of October 2015, misogynists, trolls and a variety of people who associate with the #Gamergate hashtag occupied the #TakeBackTheTech and #ImagineAFeministInternet hashtags by posting thousands of anti-feminist and misogynistic tweets and memes. The TBTT community responded in multiple languages, networking online and behind the scenes, sharing support and strategies. TBTT’s strong and diversified network was able to circumvent this deliberate, planned and coordinated effort to silence women’s voices. Known for its strong stance on freedom of expression, TBTT favours online dialogue, but like so many attacks against feminism and feminists, dialogue was rejected by trolls and the attack quickly escalated to online violence, with threats targetting individuals in our community including images of physical and sexual violence against women and attempts to dox campaigners.
Between 9 and 20 March, APC's Women's Rights Programme (APC WRP) members attended the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York, which focused on the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. APC developed the "10 points on Section J: How technology issues impact women's rights," which described ICT's growing impact on a variety of issues related to women's rights, from access and agency to economics and ecology.
APC WRP also presented the final findings of the research "From impunity to justice: Exploring corporate and legal remedies for technology-related violence against women" at the CSW session. And, as part of the Steering Committee of the Global Alliance on Media and Gender (GAMAG), led by UNESCO, APC WRP actively participated in an intense social media campaign for #SectionJ.
In the end, the exclusion of women's rights activists from both the negotiation of the political declaration and the CSW Methods of Work resolution resulted in the failure of the Commission to confront the real challenges that women and girls around the world face. Women and the media is one of those imperative issues. Notably, tech-based VAW, hate speech and misogyny were examined in several high-level and side events, and the Feminist Principles of the Internet sparked debate online throughout CSW sessions.
Corporate and legal remedies for technology-related violence against women
APC published a series of reports presenting the findings from a multi-country research project on technology-related violence against women. This was the first ever multi-country research on online VAW, both in relation to corporations as well as domestic legal remedies, and all its elements represent a significant contribution to the body of knowledge and recognition of online VAW, particularly from the perspectives of the global South.
The research reveals a lack of access to justice for survivors and highlights the voices and experiences of women who have faced technology-related VAW and sought justice through state agencies and internet intermediaries. The research identifies available legal remedies, and analyses their strengths and limitations. Online VAW is a website that collects all the resources produced as part of this research, which involved partners from seven countries.
GenderIT.org featured the results of the global and national research through eight thematic editions. The research teams in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan, and the Philippines, were interviewed to capture the essence of the challenges faced and the main findings in their local research.
States urged to respond to violence against women
The Human Rights Council resolution “Accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women: eliminating domestic violence” recognised that violence against women can include acts such as cyber bullying and cyber stalking, both expressions of online VAW that APC’s research and statements at the HRC and CSW spotlighted.
During the Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on violence against women at the 29th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council, APC delivered an oral statement calling on all states to develop effective responses to technology-related violence against women as a matter of urgency as part of their existing obligations to uphold women's human rights.
APC and partners organised a two-day expert group meeting on “Due diligence for violence against women online: The role of the state and internet intermediaries” in Florence, Italy in October 2015. The significance of this meeting lies in the fact that it began to unpack key and contentious issues related to online VAW and freedom of expression, focusing on principles to guide states and intermediaries in developing responses.
A law for the prevention of digital violence
Between May and November 2015, a technical team from the Chamber of Senators of Bolivia and Fundación REDES jointly conducted an analysis of 200 cases of “digital violence” – violations perpetrated though the use of ICTs – reported in the national and international press. Every day there is growing evidence of the violation of human rights in the online environment, involving individuals, businesses and governments. Digital violence has negative impacts on multiple levels – individual and collective, local, national, transnational and global – as well as in both the online and offline worlds.
On the basis of a diagnostic analysis of digital violence in Bolivia, Fundación REDES and the Bolivian government will work together to design a National Integrated Multisectoral System for the Prevention of Digital Violence, whose principal aim will be the creation of standards for preventing and responding to digital violence.
The system will involve the participation and interaction of three major sectors: the public sector (public institutions, authorities and officials); the private sector (telecom service providers, ISPs, web developers); and civil society (CSOs, NGOs, social movements, and indigenous and other local communities).
Fundación REDES is also working with the Bolivian government on the development of a Law for the Prevention of Digital Violence, which will encompass three phases: conducting a national diagnostic analysis, collective drafting of technical recommendations at the national and international level, and finally the drafting and tabling of a bill.
ICTs for Feminist Movement Building: An activist toolkit
Women'sNet in partnership with Just Associates and APC produced an activist toolkit – ICTs for Feminist Movement Building – as part of the Building Women’s Collective Power Partnership (BWCPP), a JASS Southern Africa project, with the support of Comic Relief.
In this toolkit, we draw on the experience and contexts of women activists in southern Africa and beyond. And while we focus on women’s rights activists, anyone who is part of a movement for social change will find it useful.
The toolkit aims to assist activists to think through their communication strategies in a way that supports movement building. It offers a practical guide to writing a communication strategy and reviews a number of ICT tools and technology-related campaigns which can be used in organising work.
The toolkit is also about feminist practice and how to use tools and communicate in ways that are democratic and make women’s voices stronger and louder while challenging stereotypes and discriminatory social norms. We hope it will assist activists in making creative, safe and sustainable choices in using ICTs in their communication strategies.
Strengthening APC community networks
Regional member meetings
Five regional member meetings in 2015 responded to repeated calls for more face-to-face networking and collaboration opportunities, as well as for strengthening APC regional networks.
The Asia members meeting was held in Manila, Philippines on 26-27 March alongside the RightsCon 2015 event. European members gathered in Sofia, Bulgaria on 6-8 June 2015, LAC members in Mexico City, Mexico from 31 July to 2 August, and African members in Addis Ababa on 9-10 September 2015 alongside those regions' Internet Governance Forums. The North America members meeting was held in Philadelphia on 22-24 June alongside the United States Social Forum.
Regional member meetings form an important component of APC's network development strategy. Face-to-face meetings and collaboration among members and APC staff are considered to be key for strengthening links within the network, and they provide space for collective thinking and planning, which is invaluable for any geographically dispersed network. Moreover, regional meetings boost the potential for regional collaboration within APC, which has been identified as a priority for the past several years.
We had greater than 91% turnout for member representation at the meetings, and full participation from members in the African member meeting. Individual members attended regional meetings for the first time and APC staff members were also well represented.
In 2015, APC was joined by three organisational members in Nigeria, Bolivia and Pakistan, profiled below. We also gained seven new individual members: Mario Morales (Colombia), Natasha Msonza (Zimbabwe), Leonardo Maccari (Italy), Inam Ali (Jordan), Stéphane Couture (Canada), William Drake (Switzerland) and Makane Faye (Ethiopia).
For over 15 years, the mission of Nigeria's Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) has been to promote the use of ICTs to empower citizens for a just and knowledge-based society that is anchored on sustainable and balanced development. Its main areas of work include empowering women and girls for ICT-based small-scale entrepreneurship, social media-based campaigns for peace and national cohesion, promoting democratic accountability using ICTs, and e-mentoring. CITAD provides a range of services related to development through the use of ICTs.
Fundación REDES, an organisation based in La Paz, Bolivia, works both nationally and regionally in various programmes and projects in areas such as local development, integrated knowledge building at the national level, integrated environmental management, and sustainable development in relation to technology, among others, as well as special projects that range from support for migrant communities to training for young university researchers in Bolivia.
Media Matters for Democracy
Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD) is a small Pakistani non-profit organisation working locally and nationally. Its work aims to foster the independence of both online and offline media, their responsibility and accountability, and their high journalistic standards. The organisation supports media in the incorporation of innovation and technology into their work. MMfD takes a rights-based approach towards media regulation and internet governance.