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Women in Tech 13 October 2017

Our Fellows Speak: “The Internet of the Future is Feminist“

Veronica Vera
By Veronica VeraGuest Author

The Internet Society invited four fellows from Latin America to the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa 2017, which was held 27-29 September in Johannesburg. Two of the fellows, Veronica Vera and Anais Cordova-Paez of the ISOC Ecuador Chapter, shared their focus of work related to Internet freedom.

By Veronica Vera and Anais Cordova-Paez, ISOC Ecuador Chapter

Actions online are equally important toactions offline, which is why talking about freedom in the Internet is talking about human rights. In a world that is reproducing violence in all fields we need to talk about freedom embracing women’s rights; in this point of history seeking freedom is seeking gender equality.

Can we talk about Internet freedom if we don’t think about how we want Internet to be? And what do we have to do to achieve it? This is a conversation we need to have, because violence against women is everywhere, in all dimensions. In the cyberspace, human rights defenders, activists, or any woman who speaks out loud about her rights becomes a target of abuse, cyberstalking, revenge pornography, body shaming, and all kinds of violence that make us realize why it is really important to have a discussion about the principles of the Internet so that these principles respond to our needs.

The Internet must be open, so than women could navigate everywhere they want in the cyberspace and can share information if they want about themselves without risks. Something we need to think around this is how we can manage topics like revenge pornography online without censoring all the other issues related to sex and sexuality, because when you do this you are banning information that is really important for women and girls to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights.

The Internet must be safe, but when we talk about women’s safety online we put a lot of emphasis on what we must do to protect ourselves. This is similar to what happens offline; when a woman is raped, murdered or beaten, society always asks what she did or did not do, the responsibility and debate of violence against women focuses a lot on us and it is important that we start thinking about how we can put the responsibility on society because the safety of women online and offline is not only our issue, change is a collective responsibility. We need to remember that if we can ensure women and girls safety in cyberspace, this guarantees everyone’s safety.

The Internet must be accessible so women and girls around the world can have access to information about their rights without restrictions and without becoming victims of  harassment. The Internet must be participatory, so that women and girls participate in the construction of the policies that govern it.

As said at the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa 2017, it is necessary to dialog around the Internet we want in Africa, in Latin America, and around the world, because the network that joins us could be a tool for freedom and definitely has to be the tool for communication, for network construction. In this aspect, having the opportunity to sit down, talk, listen and having a reflection on Internet freedom with diverse viewpoints empower us to create together a better future, a truly free Internet, and is a huge step to make the Internet become feminist.

The Internet must be feminist!

Visit the Internet Society’s Internet and Human Rights Resource Center and take action!

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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