Erika Smith: "It’s society’s responsibility, the companies’, and our countries’ to keep us safe"
People Links is a monthly online gathering hosted by May First/People Link members, for members and open to the public. On 27 March they hosted a discussion on technology-related violence against women and the tensions that exist between combating hate speech and the right to freedom of expression.
The discussion featured Erika Smith from the APC Women’s Rights Programme (WRP). Erika is based in Mexico and she talked about the work that WRP is doing in Mexico and with partners globally around the project End violence: Women’s rights and safety online, and her experience in training women’s organisations in strategic and safe use of ICTs since the early 1990s, with Mexican APC member organisation LaNeta and with APC.
Hilary Goldstein: Thanks to everyone for joining us today. Today in honour of women’s history month we’ll be discussing technology-related violence against women and what we can do to challenge it. We’re very excited to have Erika Smith representing APC as our first featured member. Thank you so much, Erika, for joining us today.
Erika Smith: It’s my pleasure. In fact we’re really honoured that you decided to launch this whole process of getting closer with members but also exploring crucial issues, with the work that so many people in APC are doing regarding tech-related violence against women.
HG: Absolutely. And so let’s get started. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about why APC decided to focus work on violence against women online. Were there any defining moments or events that really inspired this project?
ES: Ever since APC had started, APC has been interested in getting more and more women online, from the early 1990s, from many of the individual member networks, there were women at the member networks and women who were fascinated with tech who were interested in making sure that women were online and occupying the internet space, shaping it and building it, not just as users; and transforming that space to one that would be an exciting and creative space for women to be in. So we focused a lot on access for women; it was very clear that we were seeing gender gaps in those years, and there of course still are huge gender gaps, especially as you move out of cities and look at different economic strata and education levels and age differences as well as women.
But as more and more women began to occupy the internet we also noticed that there were a lot more expressions of violence directed at women online, and it was in about 2005, that we started to do more research and studies on this. It is interesting to see that although the attacks against women online, or any time a female identified person would come online in any sort of an online space, be it gaming, be it internet rights speech, there was always some sort of attack, when internet got more able to handle a lot of traffic, video, imagery, all sorts of interactive spaces, I think that the ways that this could happen also skyrocketed, and certainly we’re talking about the millions and millions of people who are online as well. So we started doing research and trying to understand what was going on. Was it different violence? Specially, how could it be dealt with? How could women deal with it? We were looking at that time, just trying to understand the phenomenon, that’s when it started. And also it was in conjunction with the Take Back the Tech! campaign that we run every year, with 16 days of action to end violence against women, from November 25 to December 10.
HG: What do you think is the relationship between online and offline violence against women? Do you see that women are more vulnerable online, or is it just a new space to continue some of the long running issues that women have been facing for a long time?
ES: I think there are just so many ways, it really depends on the contexts and on the skills women have when they’re exploring online spaces. Certainly, when you’re talking about a virtual space, it’s quite distinct, and we’re very aware that women who are experiencing physical attack might feel that it could be crazy to be talking about physical attack online. And in fact, in the research that we are doing, women who go to report this are laughed out the door on many occasions, and not taken in any way seriously.
But what we’ve seen again and again is that many times, it’s just part of a continuum of escalating violence that leads to offline physical violence and sexual assault, or it stays online and the damage is psychological, in the sense of the context in which the woman lives: She lives in terror, although the threats are “only” happening online. I think the context of violence that so many women live in, their experiences, which are quite different in all the different countries where we’re doing our projects against violence against women, it really can determine how safe a woman might feel or not feel online. The same threat expressed against one woman based on her lived experience could be brushed off as unimportant, whereas another woman may lock herself up in her home and never leave again, and certainly never get online again, and feel that her attacker is at her door. And the worst thing with virtual violence is that you don’t know if your attacker is right behind your door.
HG: Maybe you can give us some examples of some of the ways in which this violence plays out. Are there any particular stories or maybe case studies of some of the ways this has happened?
ES: Right now we’re in the middle of a project that’s been studying the way that violence has been happening online in many different countries for several years now, mostly trying to build awareness that this actually is happening and it is a concern. A long time ago it was dismissed as a violence that was going to happen to women in the United States, for example, where there was a lot of productivity and people who were talking about countries in different parts of Africa or Asia or Latin America, were saying this isn’t really a concern, certainly in the Eastern world they were saying. Everyone else was saying, “This isn’t our problem.” But the women were saying, “Actually this is our problem.” So it was a struggle to get this recognised as a sort of violence against women in the first place, no matter what its expression.
I think there have been a lot of worldwide renowned cases of the type of attacks leading women, women who are political figures, or feminists who are online, experience. You also have heard a lot about attacks regarding women who come out and speak against an important figure, and then are attacked. So what happens with these attacks? In India it’s been documented where journalists who would speak out on different issues in their writing would suddenly be subject to waves and waves of attack, hundreds and thousands of Twitter attacks, so that they were not able to do their journalistic work or practise their own expression on Twitter because they were drowned out by these attacks, for simple,not even extremely leftist nor radical feminist ideas, necessarily, but they’d been targeted to be hit by this Twitter swarm. And the effect of that, in women who are occupying public spaces, is an attempt on the one hand to silence them and affect their ability to have access to speech, and express their voice, but the other thing that is interesting and that always goes hand in hand is using traditional gender roles to put women back and subject them to saying: Her voice, whatever she is saying, is irrelevant, because she is a “slut”. They start to list all the reasons, or her body is objectified. The comments are quite hateful, and when you get them in these levels of quantity, it really does affect people’s ability to occupy their spaces in the way they would normally do.
I think also that we have different types of expressions of violence. We see a lot of intimate partner violence, where intimate partners are using the technology – small cameras, putting on spy programmes, – to monitor their partner’s every move. If you live in a situation of violence, it’s not shocking to know that if your partner asks for your password you give it to him – so that he can see exactly who you’re speaking with in Facebook, what sort of things you’re posting, what sort of messages have been going on. And so you see a lot of supervision, control of movement, monitoring of whatever is being said, who you’re communicating with, how you portray yourself, at the very intimate partner level.
What’s interesting as well is to see how women who are using technology creatively and enjoying using their own imagery, taking pictures of themselves and interacting with people, expressing themselves, might also get attacked, because their privacy either was violated or they didn’t know how to control their privacy setting, or because in fact someone violated their rules of consent and decided to disseminate very private information beyond the scope of what the person who took photos was originally intending.
HG: What do you think are some of the strongest approaches, the ways we can combat this, learning how to protect ourselves in online spaces, or even in these kind of social networks? Are a lot of the ways in which you are addressing these problems more technical in nature, or are you working more on a kind of politico-legal framework, or is it more education and awareness raising?
ES: Well, I think it varies, different partners are working on this project, which is called the End violence: Women’s rights and safety online project, and we receive the support of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Seven different countries are participating in the project. We have people from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Colombia with APC member Colnodo, also from Bosnia Herzegovina, Pakistan and the Philippines, also all APC members: FMA in the Philippines, OWPSEE in Bosnia Herzegovina and Bytes For All in Pakistan. It’s been very interesting to see how different methods and a variety of strategies are necessary but also effective in different spaces.
So, for example, a lot of us are doing heavy amounts of public awareness raising, and I think we can see notable differences from five years ago. When we talk about tech-related violence against women, people understand what we are talking about now, and they understand that it is more than Twitter swarms or harassment online by trolls. On the one hand I think there is much more depth of understanding of what are the possible risks and types of attack. I think that what we’re trying to work very hard against is that women should not be getting blamed for this. In a world where privacy is not the default setting it is very easy, and in fact it’s rather complicated, to figure out how to control certain settings. If the industry is made up by violating privacy, if that’s what it’s all about, if that’s why it’s a popular industry in the social networking scheme of things, then it’s very hard to easily off-the-cuff figure out how to use privacy settings, especially when those configurations are changing all the time, as could be the case for example for Facebook. So you see a lot of self-recrimination already by women, and a lot of attack about women’s use. And I think that that just goes to show the incredible misogyny and sexism that you face in our society, that wants to blame the victim for everything. It’s ridiculous to see the effect of blaming the victim that happens online and offline against women who suffer violence of different types. One of the ways we work at is building awareness of that this happens and stopping this attitude of blaming the victim.
It’s important that a woman online – whatever happens to her afterwards – she can decide to make her own porn video, any violence afterwards as a result of this it is not. In all of these things it’s very interesting to see how consent gets blurred in the process. Because you said “Yes” to this one thing, like shaking my hand, obviously everything else is your fault. So we work very hard in that area, in schools, with young people, etcetera.
The other aspect of it is, what we don’t want to do is terrorise women online, we don’t want women to feel that it’s not their space, when it is, so we look at a lot of empowerment issues and at women using the internet creatively and safely. Do whatever you want to do online, but know how to use the internet creatively and safely as you do it. And here’s how we can help. And so a lot of the work has been focused on secure online communications. A lot of the work of the partners in the countries I have mentioned has been with journalists, with women human rights defenders, with feminists who are using the internet for their political work to change the reality of women’s rights, and getting incredibly attacked, and seeing their personal lives put at risk and their physical integrity at risk as a result of the information that people are able to mine out of the internet.
But also we can’t just say, “Hey, it’s your job, women, to keep yourselves safe.” No. It’s society’s responsibility here, there’s certainly a responsibility of the companies that do not make privacy a default setting, and certainly there’s a responsibility of our countries to keep us safe and to have legislation that we can go to and file complaints and demand that aggressors be held responsible.
HG: You’re doing this work in all these different countries, and a lot of them have a different kind of social reality that women are facing. So do you find that in certain countries, certain societies are more receptive to the efforts? I can imagine that in places where women have less rights and have kind of a lower social status that maybe this is not a priority?
ES: I think that everywhere that we’ve been working, people are very interested and very concerned about tech-related violence now, and I think it’s in part because of what’s happening with sexting, it’s coming from perhaps a moralist concern or concern about our youth. There are a lot of things that are interconnected in an alarmist way with, for example, the trafficking of women and girls and children; and I’m not saying that trafficking isn’t a huge problem, and I’m not saying that it’s not linked to the internet and facilitated by the internet because it is, and we see this in the research and everything we hear in the stories. But I think that there is this idea that, “Oh, our children are online, they’re going to get attacked,” and “don’t talk to strangers” and there’s a very knee-jerk alarmist reaction; so people – legislators – want to make laws, and they want to look good with the community, and they want to be seen as doing something, but it’s very much from a protectionist point of view. A lot of parents want to know how to make sure their teenagers are safe, but it’s interesting, because many people want us to tell them how to spy on their kids, and especially how to spy on their teenagers. We say we’ll teach you how to use security and privacy settings on your computer together with your kids, together with your teenagers, because anything you do to spy on them they could get around!
It’s interesting to see the difference of the reception and that goes across the board culturally. What we see, however, is that companies, for example, have global community standards – and I do understand that it is no easy task to manage global communities of millions of users and to have standards of one size fits all. I think it is very difficult. But the fact of the matter is, when someone’s picture is involuntarily posted in the United States versus in Mexico versus in Pakistan, it could be the difference to a girl’s physical integrity, she could get killed for that picture in some countries, such as in Pakistan. So it’s hard. It’s not as if there’s one answer fits all. For example, do we want a girl who is proud to be a lesbian and is talking about being a lesbian in a country where it’s illegal to be one? And she wants to express her voice, and she wants to say that this is how she is and how she feels and she is thrilled. Do we want, for her own safety, someone else to decide that that video is unsafe and should be taken down because her life is going to be at risk? Though many would question: But does she understand who is seeing this, who could see this? So it’s a huge debate.
A lot of the things that we’re seeing, however, are without consent: Perhaps videos that were made voluntarily but were not being disseminated voluntarily, or given consent to their dissemination, are going out into the internet and causing huge sorts of damage, and there’s no way to get that down, or it’s taken down and it comes back again, especially on Facebook pages. Gossip sites on Facebook are known to be quite vicious, but you can see how they play out in reality in different countries. In Pakistan it means death to some girls and women when there’s a gossip site that insinuates that somehow the girl did something. It might not be insinuating that she had sex with the whole village, maybe the gossip site is insinuating that she likes a boy, it could be at that level. You can see how Facebook would not say that a girl likes a boy is “against their community standards.” They would never take that down. But it could be a death sentence to the girl.
HG: That seems to raise a whole set of important issues, especially as most of this communication and sharing of information and sharing of stories is happening especially in these social networks, like Twitter and Facebook. Are these companies really trying to proactively address it, or are they just playing a kind of reactive “figure it out after it happens?” I can imagine, especially when you’re talking about these cultural divides and these thin lines between what’s right and wrong – do they have a way that they’re addressing these?
ES: Twitter did install an abuse button which it didn’t have, so some people regarded this as just a band-aid attempt, and others felt that it was an improvement over nothing. I think what’s changed is that many public women have come out to say “This happens all the time,” and some people said “Oh, I’ve always dealt with this sort of stuff, oh come on, chin up,” and others have said “Well, I had no idea that this had this sort of impact.”
I think there’s also a lot of debate about how you’re supposed to deal with it. But what is incredibly frustrating is that you’re receiving threats or abuse that have you just absolutely terrified; you take them for real, you have no idea where the person is, you have no idea of the extent of – the possibility of them coming to your house. What you do know, as they’re threatening you, is that there’s a lot of public information about you on the internet, because of data mining, and then there’s some other “wonderful and helpful” Twitterati who are also putting out your personal and private information so they’re making it easier. That’s when that death threat or rape threat feels even scarier. And if you are living in a context where you’ve already experienced violence – sexual violence, physical violence – as a woman in that context or as an individual, and where it is a violent context, you can be much more terrified than others who don’t live in such a context. So that sort of changes everything, because for you, you’re saying “This is abuse,” and you’re reporting it as a threat, yet when the company responds “This isn’t a real threat,” you go “What do you need for this to be a real threat?” When does it not become real? When he actually comes and kills you? Interestingly, it’s the same response that you can get from the police, when (women) go and they say how terrified they are. And “This isn’t a real threat, it’s happening online,” and again, you’d have this feeling that you can only come back once you’ve been raped, you can only come back once they have broken into your house, you can only go back – or your family can – once you’ve been killed. So it’s an incredible feeling of impotence, you have no power whatsoever.
We’ve been doing research in our countries, and when we found cases where the police or some government body, or someone actually took a stand, and they were able to change things, the level of women’s self-confidence and empowerment, the encouragement of other women to take a stand, to fight back is impressive. So if you see that you’re not being dismissed, that the company is taking this seriously, and it’s serious because you actually can report something and you actually do get a response, and you’re not finding out that the page that had actual rape scenes on it is still up there a week later, and in your life, what are your community standards then? No violence is accepted unless it’s violence against women, and then it’s encouraged. It’s time to get companies to make the reporting of abuse a lot easier and a lot more quickly responded to. And I think that the hard part is how companies can do this in an efficient way, because they have to use technology as a filter, and technology when it is filtering is not as easy for them to understand. You also have to deal with the societal bias, where misogyny has been accepted for centuries.
HG: You raise an interesting point about how if the violence hasn’t actually been physically experienced and it’s still only in that kind of verbal textual version, how do we deal with that. Where do you draw the line between being able to attack this kind of hate speech and these threats, without infringing on freedom of expression? Is this a real tension that becomes problematic in this work?
ES: I think it definitely does, first off because freedom of expression advocates are going to be the first to say “Wait a minute, are you going to leave this up to the company to decide, are you going to leave this up to the government to rule on?” And there’s actually no space that states that companies will do this in a way that benefits democracy and freedom of expression in the true sense of the word, that is so vitally important to all of us, and in fact is one of the key things that we as feminists are fighting for. So our freedom of expression has been curtailed, women’s voices – people who have been oppressed for years are always having their voice suppressed and their freedom of expression limited. So it’s a right that we take very seriously in this project, and also, obviously, APC in all of the work that we do on internet rights, we see how often freedom of expression is under attack.
And what makes us just indignant, is that one of the biggest things that are used to legitimise limiting freedom of expression is “to protect our women from harm and the violence that our children are experiencing” – and/or state security, “We’ve got to limit all your rights, especially your freedom of expression, to keep this country safe.” And did you feel the pat on your head there? Because that’s what’s going on. However, it’s not a trade-off. Your freedom of expression does not necessarily mean that it’s an absolute right, and there is such a thing as hate speech, there is speech that is harmful, that is affecting my rights, as someone who also has a right to self-expression. And it’s interesting to see also how frequently it really gets played out according to race, class, different sections of society in all of the different countries, about: What freedom of expression? Whose freedom of expression gets defended? One of the things that I find absolutely appalling is that women can get no recourse, because the court system goes against them because they are not able to get justice when a man has raped them. They go online and they say, “This man raped me, and I just want the world to know that this happened.” And maybe they won’t even bother to take the case to court, because they know they’ll lose, because of the unfair justice system in their country. Those women, of course, are getting thrown in jail for having marred the name of the individual in question, yet people who actually are the aggressors against women, go free. So it’s a very frustrating process when you see women exercising their freedom of speech, in many ways tools against their speech are being used at all times.
Also freedom of expression is something that is interpreted by every state quite differently, or even across continents quite differently. And this is something that we have to be very watchful about, very thoughtful about, as we see how it plays out on the internet, because certainly there would be a closing of our ability to express ourselves, if we allow censorship on the internet.
HG: Thank you so much for this great discussion. I wanted to take some time for some Q&As. The first question we have here is: Can you share a story of a woman who has successfully fought violence online?
ES: Yes, there are many. Well one of the cases that we have here in Mexico, from the research that we’ve done, is regarding a lesbian couple, where one is a journalist and the other is a therapist, and they publicised the therapy that they gave to women around sexual identity on different public websites, and so their private information, like their phone number, where they held the therapy sessions, that sort of thing was – they didn’t even think about it – this was where they had therapy sessions, and they put the address up, and they weren’t even cautious about letting people know that this is a space where lesbians come for therapy, and also it was their home. They had their office in their home. So this was a matter of public record, and on the internet they started to become incredibly harassed, and at one point there was a threat describing literally what they wore, what their movements were, that sort of thing, threatening to bring their house down and kill them, with incredibly homophobic violent language. And they went to the police station. And then they went to, of all places, the institute against discrimination in Mexico, which had recently been founded at that time, and that institute took action immediately and insisted that the police had to take action in this matter immediately. And they felt so empowered by this simple act of an institution or someone taking action, and being taken seriously.
The fact that that happened meant that the police took action and took record, and it wasn’t a matter that was successfully investigated, no one was actually brought to justice for it, but it did make the harassment cease at that time. And the impact on them was that they never desist. These are amazing women, who have been known to do public rallies and start their own rally against corrupt officials, trying to actually express themselves and denounce abuse, whether it be online, using online techniques, as well as offline, as well as the press facets, they explore all facets. What they tell us is you knock on one door, if that doesn’t work you knock on another, you have to make sure that this is denounced.
HG: I can see how the validation, even if there is no legal victory, it helps to shift that culture. What is the role of this violence in repressing women’s political activism?
ES: It’s true that it’s certainly attempting to do so, and we’ve seen cases – there was an example last year of the Latin American Women’s Health Network that was well-documented, where their site was attacked just as they were about to have a campaign on abortion rights and women’s right to legally interrupt their pregnancies, and their page was hacked, but also they’d been having trouble with their social networks, because it was a network-operated space and they were trying to use their social networking to build up the campaign beforehand and this was also under a lot of attack; there’s a lot of Twitter hate speech going on, etcetera.
For different political actions there are different levels of effectiveness. Obviously if you’re hacking down a communications basis that women have built to be able to do their campaigning it has a serious impact on silencing. But also there is an impact when you are constantly ebbing at someone’s energy or absorbing their energy in another way so that they cannot focus on their political work because they’re trying to deal with wading through thousands of messages on Twitter that are all abusive. So there are different strategies.
One that I have heard mentioned with media activists in the States is that people volunteer to read other people’s comments, so they’re reading abusive comments but not directed personally, very specifically and personally and viciously at them, but at a different person, and they take that load off, so that it’s not such a heavy weight. That’s just a simple – it might seem simple but I think it’s an effective strategy, amongst many others. Deactivating counts, in the first place it’s necessary, especially when you know that half of them or thousands of them will be death threats. We’ve seen activists take that strategy for example when they’re bloggers, feminist bloggers writing against violence against women in Pakistan, just to deactivate comments. But you can see the toll, you can see the discussion, the debate, it gets drowned. Certainly we’ve heard of so many women who say I would have done that, but I just didn’t want to deal with the attack. So I do think that the strategy of people who attack women online who are trying to do political organising in this way are dealers in evasion, and wearing them down has some positive impact. But you can’t keep women activists and human rights defenders quiet for long, if at all.
HG: Now here we have a longer two-part question. It says: I’m curious about concrete strategies that we can recommend for users and service providers. So for service providers, how can you state the community standards you want to maintain clearly and how do you ensure they’re actually enforceable and that your users feel supported by the policy? For the user’s part, how do you ensure that the communities you’re part of share your values? And what do you do if you find that they don’t?
ES: I think it’s no easy task, and if you start to think about translation into many languages as well, right? But I do think that we can take a look at existing standards in many different platforms and what’s worked and what isn’t working well. A simple example with abuse in Facebook is that I think you can record abuse because you say something like, you don’t like what was said about you, versus what was said about you is harmful. The way that it’s phrased, no, that’s not it. But these other options for abuse maybe are useful for naming abuse.
I think that doing a survey of what is out there and being aware of that, that’s part of what our research is doing, but also consulting your community. The whole point, we feel, in many of the different platforms that are where a lot of abuse takes place, is that they’re not listening to the reality that women are facing and the suggestions that women are making, and they’re not consulting people who understand violence against women in ways that could help them have an easier experience. I think also you can decide to prioritise in some way, give extra support, spotlight public interest aspects of this issue: you as a service provider, being concerned about violence against women is a public health matter. It’s a basic societal concern. So it’s another way that you can get issues out there. Being that platform and making sure that that voice isn’t getting drowned out is very important. Having women involved in developing the guidelines, having your community involved in developing the guidelines, it takes a long time, but it’s also not something that is “Oh, I did this now, it’s done!” Things change, things get better, technology transforms, what worked a year ago will be able to be better and improved upon a year later.
One of the things that I think has been frustrating for a lot of people, as well, is the whole question of attempting to be anonymous, attempting not to be so pinpointed by your individual person, being able to have a public persona and having a private persona. So many of the social networking platforms don’t want to do that, they want your private information, to be part of their currency, so it makes it very hard for you to be anonymous. Certainly I think that having, as a principle, privacy by default and having mechanisms for establishing complaints that are clear and that are enforced are very important. I know for example in the Philippines and in Pakistan our partners there, the Foundation for Media Alternatives and Bytes For All, have been working with a lot of new university protocols, for example at the ISP level, at universities – at that sort of place communities can develop specific standards, because they are a closed community to a certain extent. Those are the possibilities.
HG: In the Take Back the Tech! project, are you compiling these as you go, a list of best standards, or to use as a way to compel service providers or organisations or networks to adopt certain standards?
ES: Well the 16 days action around the Take Back the Tech! campaign has been much more focused on women users and creating awareness about tech-related violence against women and how to be safe online. I think that it is very possible, what this project of ending violence against women with a focus on digital safety is looking at is what is out there, and is researching the ways that women have been finding recourse, or not: Looking at the policies of for example Telcos and ISPs, for example, the policy of a porn site having been taken down, if you don’t want your video there that’s been posted; the policy of Facebook itself, etcetera. The research of the whole project that I’ve mentioned is definitely looking at those policy standards. Coming right now we are having a meeting to teach the results of all of that research, and begin to strategise about what will be the way forward with that, what kind of policies do we see that women find useful and what are the ones that are actually limiting their access to justice.
HG: Hopefully we’ll be able to learn from your findings and help you share that information. Online harassment isn’t only aimed at women. So do you see overlap in efforts to address other kinds of homophobic or racist hyperbole, or do you see these as kind of separate spheres, that are working separately and are not linked? Or are they finding ways to collaborate?
ES: No, I think that they’re completely interconnected. Certainly we’re talking about violence against women and girls, but women come in all shapes and sizes, and the racism and homophobia and the attacks, for example, on trans women and men, it’s also coming out in our research, and also other work that APC is doing in exploratory research on sexuality and ICTs. So definitely they are very interlinked, and the strategies that will work for women to get recourse against violence will also hopefully be informed by these other strategies, and help the work that such communities are doing.
What I think is a concern for us sometimes is that the high profile cases, without in any way wanting to dismiss the level of violence and attack that very privileged women, white women in for example wealthier nations have experienced, I think that that tends to get the spotlight. People now start to sort of tweet these very public privileged women who are under attack, and are outraged by the attacks they’ve experienced, and I think for a long time – and I think there’s still some idea of well this isn’t a problem in a rural community.
The reality is that in fact this tech-related violence is so connected and everybody is desiring to be part of this interconnected world, it is no surprise that people who are the most vulnerable in our societies, which are without a doubt women of color, rural women, women in different economic strata and trans women, all of these different communities that exist, were in fact at some time taking advantage of the internet to be able to interconnect, express themselves, have solidarity for the first time ever! Because the internet exists, they’re under incredible attack, the type of viciousness that goes on in so many of these expressions, so for us it’s been really important that the projects where we work are in such different countries and different contexts where we can understand how it all plays out, and what the trends are and what the singularities are.
HG: I think that that just speaks to how important the work that you’re all doing is. This has been a really fascinating discussion.
ES: Thanks to May First and People Link. It’s really an honour to have been the first in the series.
Listen to the full interview in audio format in here
People Links is a monthly online gathering hosted by May First/People Link members, for members and open to the public. On 27 March they hosted a discussion on technology-related violence against women and the tensions that exist between combating hate speech and the right to freedom of expression.