Art on Tech Grant

The Bachchao Project, is inviting artists and technologists who are interested in creating a visual art piece to talk about current issues of data and privacy.

As technology advances to a global scale and becomes ingrained in every aspect of our lives and environments, exhibition examines its consequences and assists visitors in exploring practical solutions to mitigate them.

We are looking for two organisations/individuals to work with on this for four months to create art-tech objects that will be used in the exhibition to advocate for digital and internet rights, data privacy and safety.

The exhibition is hosted with the support of Tactical Tech and Sida.
Applicants are encouraged to take a critical approach to the theme of Private and Public Data.
The object can take any form of visual expression, preferably a poster or physical object, as long as it is a new work that can be presented, performed, screened, or exhibited to an audience.
The new work will be replicated and used in exhibitions under the Creative Commons licence.

How to apply:
Submit a detailed proposal for the art-tech object you want to create in response to the theme. The functionality should be explained in the note.

Send your proposals on theteam@bachchaoproject.org

Deadline for application : 5th Feb 2023

2022 In reflection

As we come to the end of 2022 here are some highlights of our work this year:

We are now a four member collective with Chinmayi S K, Srujana Bej, Tania Devaiah and V. We look forward to growing the collective in 2023 & enable a safe, healthy, intersectional work space.

At the beginning of this year we co-produced podcasts for Cyberdemocracy season 3 with Makepeace Sitlhou and Suno India  in which we focused on digital rights in North East India.  We hope to support more understanding of this region from the lens of the people of the North East.

http://thebachchaoproject.org/digital-rights-in-northeast-india-cyber-democracy-season-3/

We looked at how women activists and political organisers who belong to marginalised groups interact with online civic spaces with our “Without Fear” Report . We believe this understanding is important to shape online spaces especially now when marginalised communities face the most harassment and censorship online. This work was carried out  by Srujana Bej and Ayesha Minhaz. We will continue to work in this area in 2023.

http://thebachchaoproject.org/without-fear/

We supported Internews OPTIMA in their Internet shutdown Advocacy Needs Assessment for Prepare, Prevent, Resist: The OPTIMA Internet Shutdowns Resource Library. We believe this work is essential for thinking through resources and strategies for communities working on fighting internet shutdowns. This work was supported by Chinmayi S K , V and Srujana Bej

https://preparepreventresist.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/India-Needs-Assessment-Report.pdf

We shared our work at various conferences

http://thebachchaoproject.org/internet-shutdowns-diverse-risks-challenges-and-needs-at-igf-2022/

http://thebachchaoproject.org/what-we-owe-to-each-other-a-user-focused-model-of-tool-development-tbp-at-rightscon/

http://thebachchaoproject.org/tbp-at-ux-forum-2022/

We continue to support communities with trainings and building resource. We will be making some of these resources public in the beginning of 2023.
We look forward to all the meaningful work and connections we will build in the coming year. If you are interested in engaging with us keep an eye here:

Internet Shutdowns: Diverse risks, challenges, and needs at IGF 2022

Members of TBP participated in IGF 2022 hosted in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The IGF was held from 28th Nov to 2nd Dec 2022.

Chinmayi  S K was a session organizer and a speaker along with Laura Schwartz-Henderson from Internews, The session also had Diagne El Hadji Daouda and
Miraj Chowdhury as other speakers.

https://www.intgovforum.org/en/content/igf-2022-ws-482-internet-shutdowns-diverse-risks-challenges-and-needs

The session was hosted both in person and online and has a discussion on the needs assessment work undertaken as part of the Prepare, Prevent, Resist: The OPTIMA Internet Shutdowns Resource Library. Chinmayi S K presented the india assessment report and spoke about the various impacts of internet shutdowns urging government to think of necessity and proportionality while implementing shutdowns.

An event report on this session as compiled by Bojana Kovac of digwatch  can be found here : https://dig.watch/event/igf2022/internet-shutdowns-diverse-risks-challenges-and-needs

Digital Rights in Northeast India – Cyber Democracy Season 3

 

In 2021-22, we co-produced the cyber democracy season 3 with Suno India and Makepeace Sitlhou, looking at digital rights in the north east of India under . The season containing four podcasts was released in early 2022.

 

The podcast series had speakers such as Veteran Journalist Patricia Mukhim, Journalist Kishorchandra Wangkhem, Activist Nonibala Narengbam, Educationist Kopele Mero,National security expert Bibhu Prasad Routray, Investigative journalist Paojel Chaoba, Political activist Angellica Aribram and Social activist Angela Rangad. In this introductory series we looked at the issues of Surveillance, Internet Shutdowns, Online Harassment and Censorship in the context of the North East.
Each episode speaks about the issues that are based on experiences of the speakers and attempts to showcase the realities on ground.

Ep 1 Criminalising thoughts on Facebook
In this episode we look at the complexities of using social media platforms for information sharing and dissent in the North East. We look at freedom of expressions and its tradeoffs from this lens.

Ep2 Coming home to barbs and brickbats
In this episode we look at the experiences of online attacks and harassment faced people of the North East India as a result of being unapologetically themselves and asserting their identities.

Ep3 Internet shutdowns in “digital” Northeast India
In this episode we look at the issues of internet access and internet shutdowns and how it creates inequalities.

Ep4 Pegasus and us – Nothing New for Indias Northeast
In this episode we look at new age surveillance and what does it mean to Indias Northeast

The podcasts are released under CC-BY-SA 4.0 . For usage of these podcasts please write to theteam@thebachchaoproject.org

Without Fear: Short term fellowship program for women and gender minorities

The Bachchao Project is a techno-feminist collective that undertakes community-centric efforts to develop and support open source technologies and technical frameworks with the goals of mitigating gender-based violence and working towards equal rights for women, LGBTQIA+ persons, and gender diverse persons. We conduct research and training in all the above areas and guide communities in determining appropriate technological interventions for themselves.

We are looking for fellows who have experience and interest in the gender and development space, and bring fresh perspectives and potential solutions to threats faced by structurally silenced women and gender minorities in the country. Examples may include reporting harassment across social media sites, and strengthening support systems. You may choose to highlight ways of adapting and coping when dealing with the aforementioned threats. We hope to bring together a cohort that learns from itself and others, and looks at innovative tech based interventions and ideas.

The program will revolve around three central verticals; the social and development space, tech, and art. By inviting fellows from across these three groups, we hope to inspire cross-sector collaboration.

Selected participants will receive small grants (around INR 70,000) that allow them to focus their efforts on finding collaborative solutions while utilizing their experience and skill. Additionally, they will also be assigned mentors who can support their efforts and assist their concept ideas. At the end of the program period, there will be a virtual exhibition set up where the participants can display their concept solutions to a larger audience and incorporate public feedback. The program is estimated to be two months, including the training period and the exhibition.

Expected skills of the fellows:

-Experience working with women and gender minorities, or interest in doing so

-Experience in the vertical you’re applying to [tech, art, or the social/development space]

-Excellent communication skills, both verbal and written

-Available to work through December 2022 and January 2023

-Abiity to work collaboratively

-Strong creative sense

Do note, these positions are open only for women and gender minorities. We especially encourage applicants from traditionally underrepresented religions, castes, and ethnic groups to apply.

To apply, please send your CV (and portfolio, where relevant) as well as a thoughtful answer to this question; “What do you see as a threat, and what would your ideal response be to it” (max 500 words) to theteam@thebachchaoproject.org. The subject line should read “[Vertical applied for] Without Fear Fellowship Program”. The deadline for applying for this position is December 14, 2022.

The deadline for this  position  has been extended until December 17, 2022 12:00 pm.

Without Fear?

Without Fear ?

Exploring online civic space participation by marginalised women in India 

Women activists and political organisers who belong to marginalised groups and challenge oppressive social orders often face state scrutiny, identity-based delegitimisation, sexual harassment and abuse in India’s online civic space.

This online civic space also seems to be ‘shrinking’ due to the increased criminalisation of dissent, social media censorship, internet shutdowns, troll and bot manipulations, and widespread hate against religious minorities and oppressed caste groups.

While such ‘shrinking’ is assumed to repress all civic space actors equally, women organisers belonging to marginalised groups often bear disproportionate impacts and heightened abuse. This is likely due to the reproduction of social power structures within the civic space (including online), and the marginalised groups having limited access to legal, medical and financial aid, political power and social networks of influence.

Marginalised women have been historically excluded by the mainstream Indian feminist movement, which is framed for an archetypal Hindu, upper-caste, cis-gendered urban, middle-class woman. Since proportionally few marginalised women have access to participate in India’s online civic space, any shrinking disproportionately affects them as they are already underrepresented.

This qualitative, exploratory study examines marginalised women’s participation in the online civic space through in-depth interviews with 12 participants.

 

Findings

Censorship and self-censorship

One participant reported censorship attempts by state actors while another stated feeling direct and indirect state presence through the surveillance of her livelihood. Nearly all participants reported practising ‘self-censorship’ due to state surveillance, criminalisation and online speech repression. Such ‘self-censorship’ was not directed by their ‘free’ will but by the fear of possible state repression. Participants were habituated to being hypervigilant about the content they shared in the public domain and its tone. They constantly carried out risk assessments in their heads of the limits within which they could express their opinions without getting into trouble or facing further repression.

Delegitimisation and harassment

Two-thirds of the participants faced online sexual harassment from platform users. Participants reported attacks on their identity with casteist, Islamophobic, homophobic and transphobic remarks; misogyny and collective trolling; unauthorised access and use of personal information (e.g. morphed photos) and hateful messages in their inboxes. Participants reported increased harassment when the content they shared received more visibility or had higher reach.

Powerlessness and impact on personal life

Participants reported feeling various degrees of fear and powerlessness, inseparable from their marginalised identity and the lack of access to capital or influential networks. Several participants expressed the fear that they may be subject to legal proceedings or unjust incarceration. They raised concerns about the risks by association for their family and friends, doxing, account takedowns and the consequent loss of networks, and the wider implications of state persecution, such as impacts on livelihood, future employment and pursuit of higher education.

Impact on mental health

A majority of participants reported adverse impacts on their mental health due to online harassment by platform users and hostile interactions with state actors. They described feeling trauma, triggers, hurt, depression, anxiety and shock. Some participants had taken social media breaks for their mental health. Without support systems such as publicly funded mental health facilities, participants’ mental health risks remained largely unaddressed.

Inadequate support from reporting mechanisms

All participants reported receiving inadequate redressal from online reporting mechanisms. They highlighted that reporting mechanisms do not account for context, have limitations as they are designed to only censor specific words or phrases, and are content-agnostic, which enables censoring of human rights abuse documentation.

On approaching law enforcement

A majority of participants reported that they did not feel comfortable approaching the police for online harassment. This is unsurprising given the police’s historical and present role in enforcing social hierarchies.

Precautionary measures

In order to navigate the unsafe online civic space, participants reported making their accounts private and refrained from sharing their personal information, work or field information and physical location. Participants did not necessarily have greater awareness about, or access to, digital safety and privacy.

Steering online discourse

Participants reported that the mainstream Indian feminist movement was exclusionary. They shared that the online civic spaces were often captured by privileged persons who offered conditional allyship or spoke on behalf of marginalised women. Some participants shared that they were slotted into specific, narrow categories and work domains. Participants also reported the risks of having their labour appropriated by bigger accounts run by privileged persons. Here, they identified algorithmic features and technological tools as facilitators of erasure and appropriation. Lastly, participants reported how online discourse on specific movements have started being steered by communities themselves only recently.

 

Way forward

This exploratory study recommends:

    1. Systematic, comprehensive and disaggregated documentation of abuse which captures the particular experiences of organisers in their self-determined, intersectional identities;
    2. A disaggregated and longitudinal study of vulnerabilities and risks from online abuse to help determine appropriate support and redressal strategies;
    3. Further research about platform governance (including its purpose), platform architecture and the political economies of platform profits and state patronage; 
    4.  Building diverse and specialised networks that provide safety, legal, medical and  technological support to the different groups of marginalised women online;
    5. Studying access and power within the online civic space and the feminist movement to help dismantle power hierarchies; and
    6. Studying the exercise of police powers, including police discretion, online.  

The complete report can be freely accessed here under CC-BY-SA 4.0.

What we owe to each other: a user focused model of tool development – TBP at RightsCon

We presented our learnings on the usability of Tails in a country with heightened surveillance and reduced freedom of expression, where many users struggle with unreliable internet connectivity. We hope with this  and other efforts we can encourage tool builders to do similar work on their tools to see if they are being built to suit the needs of their users.

TBP at UX Forum 2022

Members of  our collective  participated in the UX Forum 2022 held from  25th April to April 30th 2022. The UXForum  is an effort to bring together human rights defenders, digital security  trainers, auditors, software developers, designers, and funders for exploring  human-rights centered design in the open source privacy and security  community.

The members of our collective hosted the following sessions on Day 1 of the UXForum

  1. Tailormade? – Chinmayi S K and Vasundhra Kaul delivered a lightning talk on learnings from the usability study of Tails in India. This was based on the study “Tailormade? A study of usability of tails in India ”.
  2. Low Connectivity UX – Chinmayi S K hosted this session along with Evie Winter. This workshop focused on experiences from  practitioners in low-connectivity regions. There were discussion around tools and platforms and their effectiveness in low-connectivity regions. There were also conversation on this could be improved further.

To  read more highlights from day 1 discussions at UXForum please check this Internews blogpost.

Tailormade? A study on usability of Tails in India

Ordinary citizens are more conscious now, of the need for additional security. They’ve also started thinking about privacy in more concrete terms. The need for accessible tools and training becomes more evident among those who use shared devices and want to keep their time on the device secure and private. There are also other more vulnerable groups of persons. Tools for anonymous and secure conversations, especially when used on shared devices, can be of benefit to these users.

Keeping in mind the varied needs that will arise from a multifaceted population, we decided to train a selected group of persons to use Tails for their work. In this process we also conducted a study to document the usability of Tails.

Our study participants came from different backgrounds, there were a few unifying factors; they were all non-technical or casual digital users. Over four months, we familiarised participants with the basics of Tails and recorded their usage of the platform for their work.

In our study we found that tails is a great platform for non-technical users in most instances and has significant potential for use in a country like India. However, adaptability will depend on how well Tails adjusts to the local circumstances. As a result of our study we made the following recommendations

  1. Chipset Support

Participants with the Apple M1 processor chips were unable to install or run Tails on their systems. We recommended that this be provided in the future

  1. WiFi

Multiple participants faced problems while connecting to the internet, two of whom ended up not being able to connect at all. We recommended that documentation support troubleshooting for wifi connects and that wifi symbol appears even when there is no connection

  1. Search feature

Participants wanted an easily visible search bar to filter through files and folders.

  1. Keyboard shortcuts

The participants requested more shortcuts that are commonly found in other operating systems. These included the option to cut, copy, paste, undo, redo, switch between applications, select all, etc.

  1. Glossary or basic technical information to the Tails documentation (preliminary sessions)

We got feedback requesting a separate session to go over basic concepts before the actual training began or for additional resources for reference.

  1. Verified Tor Bridges

There is a need for more verified bridges for this region. The bridges obtained from https://bridges.torproject.org/ failed to connect on Tails Platform. We also obtained bridges from the Tor Team for the study participants, which failed to connect too. We recommended that more verified bridges be available.

  1. Video conferencing or chat support

Across the participant group, several spoke about the need for having a chat platform (Signal as an example) and videoconferencing support.

  1. Graphics

There was a persistent concern that using Tails on a public computer would make the user stand out as it looks considerably different from current operating systems. We passed this along to the Tails team.

  1. Startup tutorial

While circulating training material is a possibility, some participants wondered if it would be possible to have a tutorial option on the screen. This tutorial could take the user through some of the features we covered in the training sessions and make the initial use of Tails less intimidating.

  1. Localization

Additional translation for at least five commonly spoken Indian languages would be a good start to introducing Tails to more regional users.

Once the draft report was ready, we shared it with the Tails team. We then had a conversation with Sajolida, a Tails team member, to discuss the recommendations. Some of our comments were related to topics that had already been flagged by the Tails team earlier, and were issues they were working on. These included making the documentation more relevant to non technical users and localizing the material to India. They were open to including a glossary to their documentation, and look into on boarding. We discussed the possibility of introducing custom themes and backgrounds, incorporating keyboard shortcuts across applications into the documentation, and working on other general usage issues. They expressed hope at being able to work on running Tails on M1 chips, once the Linux community takes the lead.

 

Tailormade?A study on the usability of Tails in India

The complete report can be freely accessed here under CC-BY-SA 4.0

Community fellowship program for grassroots trainers

The Bachchao Project conducted a training of trainers for women, trans* and queer individuals, and those belonging to the LGBTQIA+ spaces. The people for the training were chosen from a closed call spread in various underrepresented communities. Nine trainees were initially chosen, out of which six trainees completed their training. Five among them went on to do the Safe Sisters fellowship program with The Bachchao Project.

The Bachchao Project, in partnership with Safe Sisters, conducted the India Fellowship Program from August to November 2021. This cohort included 5 fellows, shortlisted for their diverse areas of work with at risk and/or underserved communities, who by the very virtue of their identities are exposed to many unique  risks.

An initial training period allowed the fellows to begin understanding and responding to security challenges they may face in their work and daily life. The aim of the program was to enable them to secure themselves, and pass on these learnings in the communities they work in. The focus was on holistic security practices rather than tool usage, and fellows underwent activites on needs assessment, risk assessment and threat modelling, before moving to possible interventions.Since the fellowship was based in India, the initial training was localised to the country, as far as possible. We also held a session with prior safe sisters fellows from other countries, to underline the feeling of community and support. As the fellows spoke to each other, common interests became apparent, and resources and advice was exchanged.

The common thread that bound everyone together was the sharing of stories of online harassment, lack of access to justice and the positive impact that fellows could see their work having, especially in under served communities.  Fellows also exchanged notes on challenges faced while training diverse stakeholders and underlined the importance of being mindful of our own biases and shortcomings as individuals that we may carry into the training space. This highlighted again that without being inter sectional in every aspect of our work -including how we speak, train and otherwise engage with different communities.

After the initial training period, we conducted additional trainings for fellows who wanted more information on certain topics. The fellows were encouraged to set up their trainings while keeping the fellowship trainers in the loop. We held follow up calls for all the fellows and discussed their plans for the communities they work with, and assisted them in the setting up of workshops, if they required help. All of the fellows successfully carried out needs assessments for their target groups, and were able to carry out trainings where required. They  can now take back this knowledge and skill to their communities.

AK:

“Given the current pandemic, when more and more people are online and internet is used in a variety of ways – I feel I have benefited immensely by the fellowship as it has not only made me understand how to be safe in the digital space but also empowered me to help others from more vulnerable communities and spaces. The fellowship helped me understand how to give support in a structured fashion and I am equipped to assist others in being equipped and safe in the digital world. While firefighting skills are necessary but its much better to take certain precautions from the beginning in-order to minimise risk.”

Arunima N:

“The module on online dating and gender-based violence was entirely new to me. I liked the   tools we were given to express ourselves in the context of dating while keeping parts of our digital identity safe from being mined by dating companies. I also like that conversations we had as a part of this module, particularly on communicating to a potential romantic partner why digital privacy is important to you, and to see if the other person respects this principle of ours. That was a personally illuminating conversation to witness, between the trainers […] and the participants”

Brindaalakshmi K:

“Most importantly, I’m grateful for the space that we had as fellows during the course of this fellowship to ask questions and ask for extra resources. It was a safe learning environment. Feeling safe in a learning environment is a high priority for me while learning anything. I appreciate the patience and the effort of the trainers in always holding space for the fellows. That made a huge difference to me especially while learning tools that are absolutely new. It made the process less intimidating”

“I have had many learnings from this fellowship, not one. But the most important lesson that I have learnt is that digital security and consciously practicing safer methods is a way of life and a lifestyle change. It is taking me time and I cannot expect the people that I do workshops for to change their habits overnight. Over time, I have known this even through my work. But this fellowship has made me realise that digital security doesn’t have to be a dark and bleak thing. We as individuals have more power than we realise even while using automated technology, which often feels larger than life to most people. Many generations of people are still adjusting to using technology. Safety rests in recognising this power that we hold and making conscious choices”

Ravalisri V:

“The 2 days program on using dating applications is one of the major learning. It provided a platform to share our experiences and all the safety measures to be taken while using them along with what is a necessary action to be taken when someone faces problems from others”.

Chinmayi Shrivastava :

“A fantastic experience!

In addition to all the insights I gained on digital security, I have also walked away with a newfound confidence for digital security challenges that I might face in the future in my work and daily life. Having practised the tools myself along with the training sessions conducted as part of the Safe Sisters fellowship, I definitely feel more secure online which is the first step for me to conduct my daily work related and personal activities online without being scared and anxious at the thought of losing my data or my data ending up in the wrong person’s hand.”