At the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) 2016, the Women and Media Collective was part of the session on ‘Sex and Freedom of Expression Online’. Coordinated by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) the session looked at India, Nepal and Sri Lanka and identified how sexuality as an expression is recognised within the online sphere, the ways in which it is encouraged or discouraged and how online platforms are used to violate freedoms of expression for women.
In August 2016 feminists and sexual rights activists participated in a workshop on Feminist Politics of Technology and Digital Security organised by the Women and Media Collective together with the Association of Progressive Communications (APC). The workshop attempted to provide insights to how activists can harness the internet to talk about violence against women and other marginalised groups online while also familiarising participants with digital safety and security tools.
“30 years ago it was difficult to access the internet let alone send an email but today we are looking at security issues. Today, we are combining feminist politics of the internet as a means of communication and also looking at digital security within that framework” said Dr. Sepali Kottegoda, Executive Director of WMC.
Harmful online content has become the precursor to a broad debate on the freedom of expression online. Nadine Moawad from the APC, elaborated on how Social Media platforms define harmful content and that content is taken down due to unwarranted community guidelines.
On the other hand violence against women and marginalised groups are increasing in the online sphere to the extent that trolling and attacks are becoming the norm and ignored as it is not considered to be violence unlike it is offline. Peoples access to information online is being curtailed for various reasons despite the internet being one of the primary sources of information in this digital age. Nadine also spoke of the right to be anonymous online and how this right is infringed upon by social media policies.
Taking a look at online feminist activism in Sri Lanka, Dr. Shermal Wijewarndena from the University of Colombo brought attention to the devices and technologies that are currently being used in women’s organisations in Sri Lanka. Based on her recent research she talked about how women’s groups work online and offline and yet activists still talk in terms of offline organising. The gender digital divide is of relevance here as less women use devices and technology compared to men.
Discussing online privacy and security Nalaka Gunewardena, a writer and researcher on New Media pointed out the fact that privacy is not guaranteed by law in Sri Lanka. He elaborated on the importance of protecting online communications and that with precautionary measures personal data can be protected.
During the second half of the workshop participants were introduced to safe digital technologies and online security tools. Participants live Tweets of the workshop can be found under hashtags #eroticslka and #femtechlka.