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Take Back the Tech! campaign just completed a successful campaign as part of 16 Days of Activism to End Gender Violence. This year’s campaign focused on how concepts of public and private affect ICTs and violence against women. Debates included the right to privacy, blurred lines between private and public in online spaces, state surveillance and even sexting.
Campaigners around the world led events, created eye-catching graphics and penned useful documents.
“I loved seeing how local campaigns interpreted the daily actions in their own ways. They did what worked for them and came up with unique activities that were effective on the ground,” said Sara Baker, Take Back the Tech! campaign coordinator. For example, the Nicaraguan feminist collective “Enredadas” found out about Take Back the Tech! in an event on “padlocks, passwords and other obsessions” with campaigners from Mexico and Guatemala. Inspired by the campaign they took their offline 16 days activism focussed on women’s self defense to develop an on-line women’s “virtual” self-defense series, with online-safety advice for each one of the 16 days.
In Pakistan, long-time Take Back the Tech! campaigner Bytes for All brought together their tech tips and how to report online abuse in a digital guide, Online Violence: Prevention, Reporting, and Remedy, and, after years of working with journalists and the general public about abusive and invasive social media, they produced a publication called Social Media Ethics and Etiquette.
The Foundation for Media Alternatives in the Philippines, known for it’s Take Back the Tech! marathon and flashmob in 2012, fanned creative fires with their 2013 poster-making contest and OneWorldSEE in Bosnia-Herzegovina left provocative post cards throughout city cafes to generate debate and awareness around tech-related VAW. Their disco-tech featured fun and dance as well as innovative tools and digital safety.
Olga Paz, Colnodo TBTT campaigner in Colombia, reported that their 2014 calendar features prevention information rather than scare tactics regarding tech-related violence. It helps women and girls learn more about how to be safe online and is already posted on many walls. Colnodo’s series of digital postcards is also travelling far and wide on the internet. We also saw some fun adaptations of the Take Back the Tech! logo. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Si Jeunesse Savait created a powerful version of the icon for their flyer about reclaiming technology to end violence against women.
Social networking is a key component of Take Back the Tech!, allowing local campaigners to connect ideas, share learnings and grow awareness globally. Many joined UNITE’s #16days and #orangeurworld actions, and Take Back the Tech! was honored to be a host on December 10 in both Spanish and English for the #16days closing tweetup debate. In Pakistan, Take Back the Tech! was a national trending topic for hours during their local tweetup, and one debate about what online violence looks like with feminists from around the world got so heated that tweeple got tossed in “Twitter jail” for sending too many messages in a short period of time.
Campaigners used social networking to introduce online tools for security as well, such as Crypto.cat for secure chatting online, and to generate anonymous discussion regarding sexting. This reminded people that there is nothing wrong with sharing intimate photos, but sharing them without consent or not taking proper care in storage violates personal privacy and is a key component of tech-related violence against women.
Although Take Back the Tech! campaigners know how to make using tech fun and engaging to help end violence, there is no doubt about their commitment to eliminate violence against women and girls, nor their understanding of the gravity of tech-related VAW. All campaigners map cases of violence, anonymising them, on the global Take Back the Tech! map. Many have their own country-level maps, and this year OneWorldSEE developed the Macedonian version of the tech-related VAW reporting map. Bytes for All wrote an open letter to the National Commission on the Status of Women, Pakistan (NCSW) demanding the government take action to address this growing problem.
Local campaigners echoed our responsibility to defend and support women human rights defenders and emphasised the importance of digital privacy. They also pointed out problems with government surveillance and corporate data tracking.
Through this year’s Take Back the Tech!, we learned two very important things:
1) ICT is increasingly included in discussions on violence against women: But we still have a lot of work to do in expanding the scope of work to address gender-based violence to include addressing issues pertaining to online security, privacy, censorship and social dynamics that shape perceptions of private and public spaces.
2) We are our greatest resource: More human rights defenders, activists, feminists and ICT practitioners than ever are invested in arming social movements with knowledge about their rights to privacy and security. Yet many of us are on different parts of this journey; we need to continue sharing and learning from each other.
In the spirit of taking action, Take Back the Tech! is growing a supportive virtual community of activists, feminists, human rights defenders, and otherwise non-labeled concerned citizens who care about tech for social change. To join that community, please subscribe to the Take Back the Tech! mailing list here
Here are a few things you can do to help expand the community:
- Send this article to 5 people you know who would be interested. Ask them to subscribe here
- Like Take Back the Tech’s Facebook page in English and in Spanish
TakeBackTheTech on Twitter: http://bit.ly/tbtttwitter (dominemoslastic in Spanish)
- Add the #TakeBackTheTech (#dominemoslastic) hashtag to your Twitter feed/search
In 2014, the Take Back the Tech! will facilitate important discussions around ICTs and gender violence. The lively fireside chat that took place at the end of the campaign about what violence against women looks like online is just a taste of what’s to come.