For this year’s Take Back the Tech!, Philippines-based APC member Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA) spotlighted the work of local activists on social media, ran workshops with university students and participated in a radio show among other activities to bring attention to the problem of online gender based violence. FMA shared some of the campaign highlights with us!
Take Back the Tech: You published a post each day of the campaign, explaining one of the Feminist Principles of the Internet (FPI) and connecting it to the work of a local activist organisation. Why do you think it's important to find tangible (and local) examples of the FPI in action?
Foundation for Media Alternatives: We wanted to make sure that we grounded the conversation in local contexts. We did this by showing how the Feminist Principles of the Internet (FPI) are being embodied in the Philippines. We not only highlighted local activist organisations, but also individual people, start-ups, and even a Filipina senator.
It was important to us to find tangible, local examples of FPI in action because bringing these ideas into a local context allows people to see how it really relates to them. This has several important functions. First, seeing FPI having an impact in your community means you will be more likely to care about it. Second, contextualising the FPIs makes conversations about feminism and technology more accessible to everyone. By highlighting people and organizations in Philippines communities who are showcasing FPI, it becomes clear that these principles can be practiced anywhere, by anyone, in many different ways. Finally, we wanted to show young women and LGBTQIA+ people in local communities what they could strive for in the future. Representation is important, and showing off the work of Filipina women and queer folks means that younger generations will be able to see a road for themselves that they may not have known existed before.
TBTT: You also participated in a television show to discuss both online and offline GBV and how technology can be used as a tool to fight it. Can you share more about this experience?
FMA: The UNTV, a major TV broadcast network with 24-hour programming, invited FMA to appear as a guest on 6 December 2018 to talk about the 18-days of activism to end violence against women. The segment aimed to create awareness on the prevalence of online gender-based in the Philippines and how to counter it. Thina attended on behalf of FMA, and the 30-minute discussion on online gender based violence became interesting when she shared that FMA has been mapping different cases of online gender based violence. The host raised his concerns with regard to increasing sextortion, which primarily affects women and young girls, with perpetrators most commonly known to the person.
TBTT: Can you tell us more about the discussion on the FPIs you organised in partnership with the University of Philippines Gender and Anti-Sexual Harassment Office?
FMA: FMA, in partnership with the Office of Anti-Sexual Harassment of the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City, conducted a half-day workshop discussion on the feminist principles of the internet for 17 student leaders at the university on 26 November.
The activity was intended to introduce the FPI to UP student leaders and bring them together to unpack, understand, apply, contextualise and deepen the principles through their own experiences and perspectives, as well as create a safe space for skills and knowledge sharing on pedagogies, methodologies and approaches for building confidence, growing knowledge and uptake of FPI.
FMA’s Thina Lopez asked the student leaders attending with background on feminism, how they see the internet nowadays and what kind of feminism they see online. They shared that they have seen some new dynamics in the digital environment where ICTs become a facilitating tool to extend violence against women from offline to online spaces, and raised some particular cases on campus.
Thina also urged the group to be more critical of the proposed or existing policies used to restrict someone’s expression online - for instance, the cybersex provision in Philippine Cybercrime Prevention Act, which stipulates that the lascivious exhibition of sexual organs or sexual activity, with the aid of a computer system, is a crime. Many feminists said that “cybersex” is not well-defined in the law, to the point that it could be used to endanger women’s sexual rights. Finally, the FMA member briefly introduced the Take Back the Tech! campaign, urging the student leaders to use technology as a tool to end violence against women and create safe digital spaces that protect everyone’s rights to participate freely and safely.
TBTT: You also released a statement during the campaign, condemning how “[President Rodrigo] Duterte and his administration are trying to normalise a sexist and violent rhetoric that silences those speaking for women’s rights on digital platforms." Why did you decide to speak out against the government of the Philippines?
FMA: FMA decided to explicitly denounce the sexist and violent rhetoric of Duterte and his administration because it sets an extremely dangerous precedent that, especially with the help of ICTs, can be easily normalised. Offline speeches, comments and actions made by the government are circulated online by anyone, especially the supporters, through media outlets and social media platforms. More often than not, the more outrageous the quote or video is, the more views and shares it will get. The actions of the administration, particularly the ones that are explicitly violent and sexist, are the ones that become the most sensationalised online, are seen by the most people, and therefore exert immense influence over the public’s perspectives and behaviour, both online and offline.
That’s why it is more important than ever that feminist organisations and human rights defenders push back against the misogyny that the Duterte administration is promoting, even though this action is not without risk. In the Philippines right now, feminists and human rights defenders are constantly under attack, and can be subject to anything from online trolls, to online violence, to facing the real threat of death. FMA takes care to calculate these risks while taking public stances against the government on sensitive issues. While there are risks of online and offline violence, speaking out against this rhetoric is crucial.
TBTT: Thanks for telling us about the campaign. Look forward to seeing what 2019 holds for FMA!