Have you heard of the Feminist Principles of the Internet (FPIs)? Well, neither had I until October last year, but read on, this will be very worth your while. The Association for Progressive Communications was at the forefront of formulating the FPIs in 2014.
One of the most impressive lessons drawn from the experience is being aware of these principles has helped me in my work; in that I am conscious of aligning my organizational goals with the feminist principles of the internet.
The principles are a set of statements that together provide a framework for women’s movements to articulate and explore issues related to technology. They offer a gender and sexual rights lens on critical internet-related rights.
A feminist internet works towards empowering more women and queer persons – in all our diversities – to fully enjoy our rights, engage in pleasure and play, and dismantle patriarchy. This integrates our different realities, contexts and specificities – including age, disabilities, sexualities, gender identities and expressions, socioeconomic locations, political and religious beliefs, ethnic origins, and racial markers. The following key principles are critical towards realizing a feminist internet.
The principles are as below;
- Access to the internet
A feminist internet starts with enabling more women and queer persons to enjoy universal, acceptable, affordable, unconditional, open, meaningful and equal access to the internet.
- Access to information
We support and protect unrestricted access to information relevant to women and queer persons, particularly information on sexual and reproductive health and rights, pleasure, safe abortion, access to justice, and LGBTIQ issues. This includes diversity in languages, abilities, interests and contexts.
- Usage of technology
Women and queer persons have the right to code, design, adapt and critically and sustainably use ICTs and reclaim technology as a platform for creativity and expression, as well as to challenge the cultures of sexism and discrimination in all spaces.
Movements and public participation
The internet is a space where social norms are negotiated, performed and imposed, often in an extension of other spaces shaped by patriarchy and heteronormativity. Our struggle for a feminist internet is one that forms part of a continuum of our resistance in other spaces, public, private and in-between.
- Movement building
The internet is a transformative political space. It facilitates new forms of citizenship that enable individuals to claim, construct and express selves, genders and sexualities. This includes connecting across territories, demanding accountability and transparency, and creating opportunities for sustained feminist movement building.
- Decision making in internet governance
We believe in challenging the patriarchal spaces and processes that control internet governance, as well as putting more feminists and queers at the decision-making tables. We want to democratise policy making affecting the internet as well as diffuse ownership of and power in global and local networks.
- Alternative economies
We are committed to interrogating the capitalist logic that drives technology towards further privatisation, profit and corporate control. We work to create alternative forms of economic power that are grounded in principles of cooperation, solidarity, commons, environmental sustainability, and openness.
- Free and open source
We are committed to creating and experimenting with technology, including digital safety and security, and using free/libre and open source software (FLOSS), tools, and platforms. Promoting, disseminating, and sharing knowledge about the use of FLOSS is central to our praxis.
- Amplifying feminist discourse
We claim the power of the internet to amplify women’s narratives and lived realities. There is a need to resist the state, the religious right and other extremist forces who monopolise discourses of morality, while silencing feminist voices and persecuting women’s human rights defenders.
- Freedom of expression
We defend the right to sexual expression as a freedom of expression issue of no less importance than political or religious expression. We strongly object to the efforts of state and non-state actors to control, surveil, regulate and restrict feminist and queer expression on the internet through technology, legislation or violence. We recognise this as part of the larger political project of moral policing, censorship, and hierarchisation of citizenship and rights.
- Pornography and “harmful content”
We recognise that the issue of pornography online has to do with agency, consent, power and labour. We reject simple causal linkages made between consumption of pornographic content and violence against women. We also reject the use of the umbrella term “harmful content” to label expression on female and transgender sexuality. We support reclaiming and creating alternative erotic content that resists the mainstream patriarchal gaze and locates women and queer persons’ desires at the centre.
We call on the need to build an ethics and politics of consent into the culture, design, policies and terms of service of internet platforms. Women’s agency lies in their ability to make informed decisions on what aspects of their public or private lives to share online.
- Privacy and data
We support the right to privacy and to full control over personal data and information online at all levels. We reject practices by states and private companies to use data for profit and to manipulate behaviour online. Surveillance is the historical tool of patriarchy, used to control and restrict women’s bodies, speech and activism. We pay equal attention to surveillance practices by individuals, the private sector, the state and non-state actors.
We have the right to exercise and retain control over our personal history and memory on the internet. This includes being able to access all our personal data and information online, and to be able to exercise control over this data, including knowing who has access to it and under what conditions, and the ability to delete it forever.
We defend the right to be anonymous and reject all claims to restrict anonymity online. Anonymity enables our freedom of expression online, particularly when it comes to breaking taboos of sexuality and heteronormativity, experimenting with gender identity, and enabling safety for women and queer persons affected by discrimination.
- Children and youth
We call for the inclusion of the voices and experiences of young people in the decisions made about safety and security online and promote their safety, privacy, and access to information. We recognise children’s right to healthy emotional and sexual development, which includes the right to privacy and access to positive information about sex, gender and sexuality at critical times in their lives.
- Online violence
We call on all internet stakeholders, including internet users, policy makers and the private sector, to address the issue of online harassment and technology-related violence. The attacks, threats, intimidation and policing experienced by women and queers are real, harmful and alarming, and are part of the broader issue of gender-based violence. It is our collective responsibility to address and end this.