The ABC of taking back the tech: Colnodo's 16 days of activism

This year, Colnodo put together an action-packed 16-day campaign for Take Back the Tech, featuring everything from e-books to podcasts to human rights workshops. We spoke with Canadian intern Catherine Joubert, who was heavily involved in planning and executing Colnodo’s TBTT campaign about the highlights of the initiative and how Colnodo aims to grow and develop in terms of educating women and youth about their digital rights and strategies to be safe and empowered online. 
 
Take Back the Tech: You published an e-book which looks at gender based violence faced by women and LGBTIQ+. Can you tell us more? Who do you hope to reach?  When can we expect to see it in English and French? 
 
Catherine Joubert: The full name is called The ABC of the risks and vulnerability prevention in ICT. The content is mostly focused on youth and the diverse minorities such as women and LGBTQI. We have done the translation of the text in French and in English, but we have yet to put it in the proper format. But, soon enough, likely in January, these languages will also be available. The book illustrates differet vulnerabilities categorised into 3 differents spheres of life: personal life, at the office and at school. We thought that by touching upon those 3 areas, we would help to create more symbiosis between online and offline life and also illustrate that a violation can happen at work but also be seen on the home computer. We felt that this would allow us to reach more people. We have just launched the book in Spanish through our social media platforms, and we have yet to see how many times it has been downloaded. But one thing is for sure, we are excited to launch it in 3 languages and I am sure, upon confirmation with the Colnodo team, we would be pleased to leave it open for further translation into other languages by APC members.
 
TBTT: Colnodo also put together a podcast for Take Back the Tech! in partnership with a local theatre group, in front of a live audience. You've done street theater on online GBV before with this group - how did this experience differ? How was the experience of discussing these issues live in a theater, but also making a live visual performance available in audio format? 
 
CJ: Yes, we created a podcast in partnership with Edwin and the team at Teatro del Sur from Casa Raiz. They are a local theater here, with whom we have collaborated in the past such as for the sketches in a previous campaign. Both experiences aimed to raise awareness about gender-based violence and get people to talk about what is happening online.The main difference between the two experiences was the content. For the podcast, we wanted to ensure that the violations discussed were more in line with the theme of this year's campaign. It was important for us to make these episodes dynamic and interesting so that people would be interested in listening to all of them. We chose to do a podcast because it is trendy, and people are listening to them more and more (or at least I do in the past couple of years). They are a great medium that allows everyone to listen on whatever platform and device they want. It is also good because they can last for a while, and we will potentially be able to upload new podcasts eventually. Furthermore, this podcast was recorded live with an audience of 30 people from the neighborhood in the south of Bogota, called Bosa, which includes a lower socioeconomic class, so we were very pleased to partner up with the theatre and offer an event for local community members. 
 
TBTT: Colnodo also had a number of online activities throughout the 16 days, including daily updates and a Facebook live panel, featuring an array of interviewees including a 15-year-old girl. What kind of specific risks, strategies and solutions were raised during the panel discussion? Why do you think it’s important to include youth perspectives when we talk about online GBV and digital security for women? What did her presence and perspective offer to the panel?
 
CJ: Well, for Colnodo, it is very important to include youth in our events. For us, part of the work [of combatting online GBV] is done through education and we are firm believers in educating people as young as possible in order to ensure that risks are lowered as much as possible. So, for this year's campaign, we invited a teenage girl to talk to us about her reality and thus focus our intervention on situations that concern women and youth. I think it was particularly important to have women take part in this Facebook live event because, for us, it is also important to show that women have a place in ICT and they encounter particular situations that need to be addressed and discussed more openly. A lot was actually discussed during this live panel, from safe practices to some of the most common vulnerabilities, such as sextortion, harassment, grooming and many more. We even talked about language and how the types of words we use may be discriminatory. So much was discussed that you might just have to catch the replay on our Facebook page. Hehe! Also, we had a very interesting teacher from a local college who talked with us about these very important themes and how he tries to teach young people to use safe practices in the digital space. 
 
TBTT: You mention that, during your Facebook live panel, you discussed risks but also how to build a more inclusive and secure internet for all. We know that Take Back the Tech! campaigners have to resist ideas that the internet is not safe for women and girls, which has an effect of pushing them away from a vital space for information, expression - and fun! Do you think there’s enough emphasis on making healthy use of the internet and enjoying its empowering aspects, rather than simply self-protection, when we talk about gendered experiences online? 
 
CJ: It is always a fine line between trying to be safe and becoming paranoid. I think that discussion and education are always key. Through an educated perspective and a calm tone,everything, almost, can be discussed and it feels less heavy than when we are in a crisis and things are chaotic. I think that is why Colnodo is so inclined to make education for women and youth a priority. Our aim is to always show the advantages of technology and ensure that it connects us in a safe, efficient and fun way. I think we underestimate the way people can take things. I personally think that it is important to publish more testimonies and denounce what goes wrong especially for women. That being said, in many countries, it is difficult to guarantee safety or even results once a complaint is made, and that is also another subject that must be addressed. The double standards that exist for women in life in general are also very present online, and I feel that technology can be a great way to actually address that. With anonymity, for example, it would be great to have a platform upon which we enter all the violations that we see in the internet and make a big registry. This would make sure that complaints are counted and reported until laws come into effect or something can be done. I think that, unfortunately, when there is not many laws and/or resources, shaming can be a powerful tool. With the help of technology, we can also protect the survivors at the same time. It is one of the many problems that the law has - not being fast enough to catch up with technology - so we must be creative. 
 
TBTT: Colnodo also re-launched an online course about digital security and women. What are the main themes and topics covered? How has it evolved from previous versions? What are participants most interested in, what kind of participants/participation has it had?
 
CJ: I must say, this course is a classic. People seem to have liked it over the years. Basically, we made sure to upgrade the statistics and ensure that the examples were up-to-date.This year, the class is ongoing until the end of January, so we are very excited to see how many people will ultimately complete the course. The people who enroll are mostly  Latin American women between ages 15 to 35, as the content is offered in Spanish. The main topics are the basics of safety and online vulnerabilities for women. With cases from Latin America, we aim to offer training for women to know how to respond when they are facing harassment or other forms of online gender based violence.
 
TBTT: Can you speak a bit about the human rights workshop that you held for Colnodo staff? What are the challenges of introducing technical communities to the nuances of human rights? What was the response? Did anything surprise you about the perspectives of your colleagues or the direction of the conversation?  
 
CJ: Normally, Colnodo likes to offer a workshop to its employees on a theme that is relevant to the campaign.  I love talking about human rights, and I could talk about it for hours but I was a little nervous for this particular workshop as it was in Spanish and there are particularities of human rights jargon. It is all about finding the balance between what sparks people's interest and what is more technical, dry stuff; it is law, after all.  I learned a lot from the Colnodo team too, and I think that is why I love doing workshops; I can learn about the context, because once we leave all the technical vocabulary behind, it is easier to just discuss a relevant subject, such as the conflict here in Colombia between rural areas and cities like Bogotá. The realities are also very different from Canada so, for me as an intern, it is very cool to learn more about my colleagues and the context in which I am living.  It is a subject about which I am deeply passionate, so it is very interesting to be able to, on the one hand, explain where human rights come from and break stereotypes and, on the other, spark discussion about everyone's reality and understandings. Human rights can be very subjective at times and no country is the same. Also, no country has a perfect record, so it is always great to discuss various cases and see what kind of hopes, fears, rights and dreams people have for themselves. I particularly love when I see someone's face light up as they understand that they have the same rights as everyone, and they are worthy of that dignity. That makes me more than happy to do what I do. 
 
TBTT: With all these impactful projects put together by Colnodo, what would you say were the highlights of the campaign? 
 
CJ: For me personally, the workshop [was a highlight], but I think that I might be biased! Honestly, I think we were careful to choose activities that complemented each other well and that were also innovative in comparison to previous campaigns. I would say that our Facebook Live was also a big accomplishment as it was the first time we did something like this; the podcast was also innovative and collaborative, and something that challenged us very much. Furthermore, I must admit that the E-Book is something that we are extremely proud of and that will serve us for a long time (and in many languages) so I might say the E-book, but it is too hard to choose one! Haha.
 
TBTT: And next year’s plans?
 
CJ: Well, we did set the bar pretty high this year. It is hard to say what we will be putting up next year!