“Studying the impact of shutdowns from the lens of gender, conflict and ethnicity”, Rightscon 2019

We are publishing the plan for our Rightscon session entitled “Studying the impact of shutdowns from the lens of gender, conflict and ethnicity”.

Details: https://rightscon2019.sched.com/event/Pvrh/studying-the-impact-of-shutdowns-from-the-lens-of-gender-conflict-and-ethnicity, Thursday, 13 June 2019, 5.15 pm to 6.30 pm, Hannibal, Laico Hotel, Tunis.

Speakers: Rohini Lakshané (also facilitator), Jan Rydzak, Unnamed speaker

Chatham House rules apply.

Main goal of the session: To equip the audience with skills and knowledge about devising studies on intentional Internet shutdowns while factoring in the intersections of gender, conflict-strained geographies and ethnicity. We would like the audience to be able to modify and adapt the study for their contexts and employ the lessons for the workshop for research or advocacy or both.

Description: A skill-building and knowledge-sharing workshop for activists and researchers who are investigating the impact of intentional Internet shutdowns from the lenses of gender, ethnicity and conflict. The methodology and the complete research report are available at: http://thebachchaoproject.org/of-sieges-and-shutdowns

We would elucidate on the methodology we employed in an exploratory study in northeast India in late 2017 about the impact of shutdowns on the lives of women entrepreneurs and feminist activists belonging to India’s ethnic minorities. We carried out qualitative interviews with 16 women residing in different districts of the state of Manipur. The activists in the control group and their organisations work in different areas of empowerment of women and girls: relief for victims of domestic abuse, increasing the number of women in governance, economic independence of women, and child trafficking. Some of them also run small or medium businesses.

Awareness of digital rights, cybersecurity and online privacy in the state is little, leaving citizens vulnerable. This intersection of gender and ethnicity is further complicated due to the suspension of civil rights in the region since the 1980s. Owing to the complexity of the topic, an individual directly affected by the shutdowns in Manipur would start the session with an introduction of the demographic and the region. Rohini Lakshané of The Bachchao Project would then speak about the research methodology, its evolution through the course of the project, and the differentiators from other interdisciplinary and qualitative studies on shutdowns, while trying to achieve a level of abstraction high enough for the methodology to be applicable to other, similar demographics and regions. Jan Rydzak, Associate Director for Program, Standford Global Digital Policy Incubator, would follow by speaking about the research methodology he employed in the quantitative study “Of Blackouts and bandhs: The strategy and structure of disconnected protest in India“. The study examines how structural and strategic characteristics affect collective action responses during a network shutdown in an extreme case via statistical analysis.

Session on Internet shutdowns, ICT4D Conference 2019, Uganda

Slide deck_Of Sieges and Shutdowns_ICT4DCon_2019

Rohini Lakshané of The Bachchao Project spoke at a session entitled “Impact Of Intentional Internet Shutdowns And Unreliable Mobile Connectivity On Women In Conflict-Strained Manipur” at the ICT4D Conference 2019. The session was featured under the “Humanitarian Response and Resilience” track. In the session, Rohini presented the most significant findings of the study “Of Sieges and Shutdowns“, which she conducted with Chinmayi S K in late 2017 in Manipur, India. The exploratory research project was aimed at studying the impact of intentional Internet shutdowns from the lenses of gender, conflict and the status of ethnic minority.

Read the full report of the study at: Of Sieges and Shutdowns

The conference was held from April 30 to May 2, 2019 at Kampala, Uganda. Details: https://www.ict4dconference.org

Op-ed: Internet shutdowns in India only fuel the fires of violence

An op-ed authored by Jan Rydzak and Rohini Lakshané on the topic of intentional Internet shutdowns in India was published in the Hindustan Times on May 3, 2019. Jan Rydzak is a research scholar and Associate Director for Program, Global Digital Policy Incubator (GDPi), Stanford University. Rohini Lakshané is Director (Emerging Research), The Bachchao Project.

Shutdowns have caused billions of dollars in economic damage and deeply impacted lives and livelihoods across India. However, rarely do we hear a more fundamental question: do shutdowns achieve their intended goals? Research suggests that it doesn’t.

The social media shutdown that followed the recent terror attacks in Sri Lanka was no isolated incident. On a global level, more than 40 countries have executed more than 400 blackouts of social media or Internet access since the Arab Spring. India accounts for an overwhelming majority of this tally. Nearly half of the estimated 306 shutdowns executed in India over the last seven years occurred in 2018, amid the surge of lynchings attributed to the circulation of violent content on WhatsApp.

Shutdowns have caused billions of dollars in economic damage and deeply impacted lives and livelihoods across India. But rarely do we hear a fundamental question: do shutdowns achieve their intended goals? State governments in India routinely frame deliberate blackouts as either a public safety response to agitations or a preventive measure to restrain disinformation on social media and communication apps. Not a single time have they provided more than anecdotal evidence that a blackout successfully prevented the escalation of protest or curbed the spread of false information with the potential to stoke violence. The effectiveness of shutdowns in protecting public safety tends to be perceived as an indisputable truth, both in India and abroad.

Complete article: https://www.hindustantimes.com/analysis/internet-shutdowns-in-india-only-fuel-the-fires-of-violence/story-7Lf7o6Sq0q6xwfbWk0WoTM.html

Archive URL: https://web.archive.org/web/20190503153444/https://www.hindustantimes.com/analysis/internet-shutdowns-in-india-only-fuel-the-fires-of-violence/story-7Lf7o6Sq0q6xwfbWk0WoTM.html

Submission to MeitY’s draft of “The Information Technology [Intermediary Guidelines (Amendment) Rules] 2018″

On 24 December 2018, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Government of India, released a draft of proposed amendments to rules pertaining to safe harbour and intermediary liability under the country’s Information Technology Act. The MeitY invited public comments and suggestions on the draft: http://meity.gov.in/content/comments-suggestions-invited-draft-%E2%80%9C-information-technology-intermediary-guidelines

The submission made by The Bachchao Project in response to the call for comments/ suggestions may be accessed here:

Comments on MeitY Intermediary Liability Draft Guidelines_The Bachchao Project_January 2019

Panel discussion on intentional internet shutdowns at Digital Citizen Summit 2018

Rohini Lakshané of The Bachchao Project was a speaker on a panel on the topic of intentional internet shutdowns at the Digital Citizen Summit held in New Delhi on November 1-2, 2018. The panel discussion entitled “Living in Digital Darkness — Internet Shutdowns in India” was organised by the Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) and Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC).

Lakshané spoke about the findings from The Bachchao Project’s research report entitled “Of Sieges and Shutdowns” on the impact of intentional Internet shutdowns on the lives and livelihoods of women in Manipur, India.

The other panelists were Prashanth Sugathan (SFLC), Tripti Jain (SFLC, moderator), Nikhil Pahwa (Medianama) and Mansi Kedia (ICRIER).

View conference agenda.

View event report by the organisers [PDF].

Panel discussion on intentional internet shutdowns at Digital Citizen Summit 2018
Photos from the panel discussion on intentional Internet shutdowns at the Digital Citizen Summit, New Delhi, 2018. Photo credit: Osama Manzar, Digital Empowerment Foundation
Panel discussion on intentional internet shutdowns at Digital Citizen Summit 2018
Photo credit: Osama Manzar, Digital Empowerment Foundation
Panel discussion on intentional internet shutdowns at Digital Citizen Summit 2018
Photo credit: Osama Manzar, Digital Empowerment Foundation

South Asia Online Safety Summit, New Delhi, October 2018

As part of our focus on issues of technology-mediated violence against women, Rohini Lakshané attended two events organised by Facebook in New Delhi:

  • South Asia Online Summit held on 29 October 2018. The day-long event was organised by Facebook in partnership with the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India. Live-stream video of the event
  • Roundtable on Facebook’s Approach on Online Safety on 30 October 2018.



The Bachchao Project featured in RightsCon Community Voices series

The Bachchao Project was recently featured in the RightsCon Community voices series: https://www.accessnow.org/community-voices-the-bachchao-project-fights-for-gender-rights-online

Community Voices: The Bachchao Project fights for gender rights online

28 August 2018 | 2:29 pm | Nikki Gladstone

CC-BY 2018 accessnow.org

The Bachchao Project is a techno-feminist collective working at the intersection of technology and gender rights. Chinmayi S K, a computer science engineer by training, is the founder of the project, which she started in recognition of her own experiences developing and using technologies that do not reflect the needs of women and queer individuals online.

“There has always been a gap between those who produce technology and those who use it,” says Chinmayi. When that gap exists, and technological innovations do not represent or consult users, particularly those from historically marginalized groups, they risk coding existing discriminatory biases into tools that do not serve everyone.

The India-based organization works with what they call “both ends of the spectrum”: technologists and users. Both groups, Chinmayi acknowledges, struggle. Technologists face difficulties understanding the on-the-ground reality of user groups, while users new to technology lack the support needed to navigate these innovations. The Bachchao Project seeks to bridge the two, under the overarching mission of equal rights for women, gender minorities, and LGBTQIA persons.

Since the team is made up of both technologists and human rights defenders, they’re able to deconstruct technological concepts while simultaneously understanding the needs of different communities. They also rely on concerned individuals to build circles of trust within their communities and pave the way for impactful interventions.

Despite this, they face ongoing challenges in the work they do. The tendency for organizations to work in silos makes it difficult for them to get buy-in for an approach that seeks to promote collaboration. In some cases, it can be difficult to get organizations not only to consider seriously principles of diversity and inclusion, but also to integrate them in their work and tools.

For the Bachchao Project, RightsCon is an opportunity to confront those challenges head-on, in a space that thrives because of engagement and strategy building across sectors and disciplines. At RightsCon Toronto, the team released its latest publication, Of Sieges and Shutdowns, a report detailing how unreliable mobile networks and intentional internet shutdowns affect women activists and entrepreneurs in the economically underdeveloped and conflict-ridden state of Manipur, India. The project is a starting point for understanding the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) by women in the region.

Learn more about the Bachchao Project on their website or follow them on Twitter, and get in touch directly if you are interested in volunteering or collaborating with The Bachchao Project on one of their initiatives.

Paper on Safe Goa project presented at Tech4Dev Conference 2018

Chinmayi S K presented the methodology for the Safe Goa project at the 5th International Conference on Technologies for Development (Tech4Dev 2018) held in Laussane, Switzerland from 27 to 29 June 2018. A working paper titled “Low Technology Participatory Methodologies in Research and Advocacy for Making Cities Safer for Women” authored by Chinmayi S K, Yugendran Muthuvel and Tania Devaiah was submitted for the conference. The final paper is scheduled for release in September 2018.

The conference was organised by the UNESCO Chair in Technologies for Development at the Cooperation & Development Center (CODEV), École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland.

Workshop on building tech for diversity and inclusion, Brussels

The Bachchao Project, Open Knowledge Belgium and BeCentral partnered to host a hands-on and insightful workshop on July 5 and 6, 2018, called “Building Tech for Diversity and Inclusion”.

The workshop was delivered by Chinmayi S K and was hosted at BeCentral. On July 5 the workshop was open to the general public. The next day it was held exclusively for Open Sumer of Code participants. It was based on the curriculum from the “Manual to build technology for diversity and Inclusion” devised by The Bachchao Project.

The Bachchao Project released version 1.3 of the manual at the workshop.

Workshop on building tech for diversity and inclusion at BeCentral, Brussels. Photo credit: Manon Brulard
Workshop on building tech for diversity and inclusion at BeCentral, Brussels. Photo credit: Julia Thomaschki

Women and the Streets of Goa

A pilot study on the safety of women in public spaces in Goa, India

By Chinmayi S K and Tania Devaiah

Women and the streets of Goa (2018) is a preliminary report comprising the findings of the Safe Goa project. Safe Goa is an effort to study the safety of women in public spaces and to advocate for the mitigation of the issues of public safety.

This report draws from the following:

  • Maps displaying the street-level view printed on paper and placed on the field, that is, in 7 different locations in the city of Panjim for victims and bystanders to anonymously log incidents of street harassment and assault. Data was collected from this maps over 5 weeks.
  • Structured and anonymized interviews with 20 women residents of Goa to record personal accounts of street harassment and to understand the issue in its depth.
  • 5 focus group discussions attended by more than 100 people to understand what public safety means to them and to identify and determine potential interventions.

This pilot study emphasizes the lived experiences of women in Panjim and the meaning they ascribe to “safety” with reference to public spaces in Goa.