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On 9 October 2015, misogynists, trolls and a variety of people who associate with the #Gamergate hashtag decided to occupy and corrupt the #TakeBackTheTech and #ImagineAFeministInternet hashtags by posting thousands of anti-feminist and misogynistic tweets and memes. This attack is the response to a tweet chat organised by the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) Best Practice Forum on Countering Online Violence and Abuse, to discuss the impact of such violence. The volunteer who was organising the tweet chat also received an email in her personal inbox declaring the launch of the attack to “destroy” the campaign. This online attack against feminist activism online is deliberate, planned and coordinated, and it is only one example of the attacks that feminists face online.
Take Back the Tech! is a collaborative campaign to reclaim technology to prevent violence against women. It started in 2006 and works with local partners to run campaigns online and offline to raise awareness of technology-related violence against women and girls, promote digital safety and amplify women’s voices online. As a hashtag, #TakeBackTheTech has been used by activists to draw attention to issues of online violence against women, and to organise around periods like the Sixteen Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence. #ImagineAFeministInternet first came into use in 2014 when the Association for Progressive Communications convened a gathering of over 50 activists in Malaysia to discuss what a Feminist Internet would look like – open, digitally secure, safer for feminist activists. Increasingly, #ImagineAFeministInternet has become more popular as digitally connected feminists have come together to conceptualise what a safe, activist online space would look like.
Today’s cyber attack by the trolls emphasises that more than ever feminists and activists need to respond swiftly to online violence. Our organisations, movements and allies need to support the digital security of women’s rights defenders online. More than ever we need to #TakeBackTheTech and #ImagineAFeministInternet. As individual activists and members of various social justice organisations we call on you to do the following:
- Report abusive accounts to Twitter.
- If you feel so inclined, create alternative accounts to push back against the trolls.
- Reclaim the #TakeBackTheTech and #ImagineAFeministInternet hashtags.
- Support the process of documenting instances of online violence against women.
- Highlight the importance of feminism, technology and women’s rights online.
- Share knowledge of how to end online violence against women.
- Support #TakeBackTheTech and our efforts to #ImagineAFeministInternet.
Jac Sm Kee
Women’s Rights Programme Manager, Association for Progressive Communications