A feminist internet and the rise of splinternets

How do you clear digital space as a feminist and at what cost? Here is how Jac sm Kee, manager for APC Women's Rights Programme and advocator for issues of sexuality, women’s rights, and internet rights and freedoms, see it.

In what way could increased filters and limitations of the free internet affect – positively and/or negatively – women’s rights and freedom? 

– APC and I did some research on filters and keywords to investigate the connection between sexuality and internet censorship, because censorship of sexual expression has not been seen as a political speech. Filters have always existed in the area of merchiness, but not always as a censorship issue. It has been more on the radar of the civil rights activism, says Jac sm Kee.

She continues: 

– What is happening right now is less about filtering and more about what happens when gender based violence gets online. When attacks are very specifically focused on gender, sexuality and ethnicity – what happens then? Can the complaints mechanisms be adequately used to support people who are getting attacked and support their needs, or will it contribute to a censorship of women’s sexuality and expression? 

Kee means that what you often see is a double-barreled response by every platform where the content is regulated. 

– When it comes to sexual content, violent and abusive content is often allowed and difficult to take down. While content that is actually about sexual expression – women putting themselves out there – is very often quickly taken down. So, there are these two things happening. Unless you have more feminists, human activists etc. engaging on this, it is going to be difficult to narrow it down to set a standard for who’s integrity and consent we are talking about.

How would you compare the internet to the traditional physical public space as a democratic platform, in relation to feminism?

– Traditional public squares and spaces are not available for female bodies. In order to enter these spaces, you already transpression to norms and standards. One of the costs of this is violence. You can see this on the traditional public square, but also on the digital square. The difference is that there are different barriers for entering these squares. Entering the physical space depends on who is monitoring you when you are leaving your home. On the internet, the digital square is accessed through your phone, and there is more imaginative power to engage to the public square, says Kee. 

She claims that there are a lot of feminist conversations on the internet, which people have taken to online platforms. 

– To talk about our issues, narratives and our reality is our chance to be visible. To produce feminist content is an important thing to do, since it is a missing perspective. But when numerous feminist voices are engaging in any public sphere, the backlash is very strong. In the digital space it is expressed through targeted attacks, gender based trolling and hate speech. In some way the physical and digital spaces are similar, in some ways they are not. You will face a cost for cleaning any kind of space as a feminist.

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