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:

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.

[Event report] Participation in APrIGF 2021 and APrIGF Fellowship

Rohini Lakshané and Mythri Prabhakara participated in the hybrid edition of the Asia Pacific Regional Governance Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF 2021), that is, the online conference as well as Local Hub activities held in Hyderabad, from 27 to 30 September 2021. Ms Prabhakara also received the APrIGF 2021 Fellowship, which has been documented in this report. They also attended the launch event of the Internet Society (ISOC) Chapter Hyderabad at the APrIGF Local Hub. They made several contributions to the APrIGF 2021 Synthesis Document.

Fellowship

Mythri Prabharakara received the APrIGF Fellowship, which ran from 1 August 2021 to 15 October 2021. It was an intensive fellowship involving courses, peer interaction, delivering talks and presentations, and receiving several hours of mentorship. The mentor assigned to Ms Prabhakara was Mr Eun Chang Choi.

She was the rapporteur for a session entitled “Transnational conversations on reclaiming freedom of expression online”, where she also made an intervention about the conceptualisation of online consent and the legal framing and categorisation of cybercrime victims. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTq1Mc3zDoQ

She made two presentations: one on her professional interests in law, gender and tech feminist spaces and the other for the fellows cohort. She represented the fellows cohort and presented a summary of the mentorship program that happened as part of the fellowship on the final day of the APrIGF. The presentation included a summary of all assignments completed and presentations made by the group, an e-course on Internet governance offered by the ISOC Foundation, and mock session proposals made to the UN Internet Governance Forum. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpCJISLJvOQ

Privacy and security based blocker browser add-ons: A hands on experience

Editors Note: The Author wrote this piece while they were exploring a blocker for their use. This piece speaks about the various considerations that the author took into account based on their use and how they made a decision on what they might use.

Disclaimer: This is an experiential piece not general advice. While the text might serve as a guide for you to choose a browser plugin we do not recommend this verbatim for everyone. The add-ons one choose varies for each person based on their circumstance. Please do write to us at theteam@thebachchaoproject.org if you would like specific advice or would like to explore what might suit your needs.

There are a lot of adblockers and scriptblockers available to use today. Among these, there are several open source ones for free, that are currently being actively developed. I tried out five highly recommended ones, and judged them on features and ease of use. The purpose was to find an ad blocker that worked well for my personal use. For this post, I ran the extensions on a Firefox browser across a mix of sites, and noted how they responded. I used a mix of sites ranging from videoconferencing to news to social media and entertainment;

1. News: The Hindu, Times of India, Indian Express, Washington Post and Al Jazeera

2. Videoconferencing: Jitsi, Google Meet

3. Entertainment: Youtube, Netflix, Disney+ Hotstar

4. Social media sites: Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram

1. Adblock Plus (ABP)

Available on: Chrome, Safari, Opera and Firefox

Ease of use: Very easy, no customization needed

By default, right after installing, it starts blocking ads and certain elements that it find malicious or sees as tracking behaviour. However, it maintains a whitelist of acceptable ads, which comply with do not track requests and fall under the criteria specified by the Acceptable Ads committee.

The extension interface is intuitive and easy to use. You can turn off the ad blocking on specific pages if needed, and if a site appears broken. While running the extension, I noticed that ads within videos (on Youtube and Dailymail for example) disappeared, but I still found sponsered ads in Google searches. It is possible to block these ads and also turn off additional tracking and social media tracking, but these are turned off by default. The extension blocks ads on the basis of filter lists that are community maintained. There is an option for user user created filter lists as well.

While visiting news sites, most did not allow me to proceed till I disabled the extension on the page- there didn’t seem to be a workaround for this via the extension alone.

The extension works in several Indian languages as well (via an IndianList filter), but adding too many languages will cause the webpage to load slower.

Final word: By default, blocks almost all ads, but sponsered suggestions do show up in search engines.

2. Disconnect

Available on: Chrome, Safari, Opera and Firefox

Ease of use: Has more content to show in the extension window, but still easy to use. Allows for some customization if needed.

This extension is similar to ABP in how it blocks only those ads it considers privacy-invasive. It also unblock ads that respect user Do Not Track requests. During my use of the extension, I encountered fewer ads, but unlike ABP, there were more frequent in-video ads. There does not seem to be a way to disable this feature, or to block all ads entirely.

While using Disconnect, it is possible to visit news sites without the site asking you to disable extensions.

Disconnect has a very interesting visual feature, where it breaks down where the trackers are from, and what categories they fall under (content tracking being enabled by default). This can be accessed as a list, or as a map. On sites such as newyorker.com, the number of tracking sites go above a hundred for a single webpage. The purpose of showing the trackers is so that users get more control over the individual tracking requests. This is especially useful in case of a broken site.

Currently, there does not seem to be language support, or any attempts at localizing the extension.

Final word: The visualization element sets it apart from the other contenders.

3. NoScript

Available on:Chrome, Firefox, SeaMonkey and Tor Browser

Ease of use: Definately has a steeper learning curve. Allows for a lot of personalization, but needs a little time to get used it.

NoScript is a bit different from the previous extensions in terms of how it works. While Adblock Plus and Disconnect focus on blocking trackers and ads, NoScript pre-emptively blocks scripts, which can sometimes break the page you’re trying to visit. If a site uses JavaScript, Java or plug in executions, it will be disabled until the page or feature is whitelisted (either temporarily or permanently). What this means for functionality is that some sites heavily dependent on plug ins will appear broken, till these scripts are enabled from the extension. Other sites may appear different as well, even if they continue to function similarly. When I tried to run Jitsi Meet, for example, I had to choose to allow plug ins, even if temporarily. On certain news sites, pictures appearing alongside articles did not show up, along with videos.

There is a lot of scope for user customization- one can whitelist trusted sites and control their entire browsing experience. Having said that, NoScript is not an adblocker, and does have the same features Adblock Plusand Disconnect do. It can act as an additional level of security for a power user, but should not be used as an alternative for a tracker blocker or ad blocker.

Currently, there seems to be no language support for NoScript outside of English.

Final word: This extension will break a lot of sites. It’s important to know how to allow scripts and also balance risks at the same time.

4. Privacy Badger (PB)

Available on: Chrome, Edge Opera and Firefox

Ease of use: Ready to use out of the box, and does not need additional customizations for the average user.

Privacy Badger was created to be a single solution to the problem of non consensual trackers. As it was initially set up, PB took a little time to learn- it observed tracker behaviour across different sites, and if it found the same one across three different sites, it would block it. This allowed it to not rely on any one third party list, but instead learn from user experience.

In the latter half of 2020, PB changed this mechanism based on Google Security Disclosures. It turned off ‘local learning’ by default, relying instead on “Badger Sett”, an automated list of tracking domains. This list is not user generated, as is the case with most other similar extensions. Users can turn on local learning again, but theoretically, this can put them at risk of fingerprinting.

PB also has an option to enable preventing WebRTC from leaking IP addresses.

There is an open translation project for PB on Transifex, but so far, there is no localization done for any Indian languages.

Final word: The changes made to the extension in the last year make it rely on a list instead of individual user trackers. This made PB like a lot of other adblocker extensions.

5. uBlock Origin (uBO)

Available on: Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Opera and releases of Safari prior to 13

Ease of use: There’s a lot of scope for a power user to made personal lists, or to set rules for the extension to work, but this is not enough to intimidate a curious beginner.

uBlock Origin is not an ad blocker, it is meant to block specific content that is broader than just ads. However, while using it, I found no ads, and no loss of webpage functionality. The extension does not make an exception for the category of ‘Acceptable Ad’, which removes sponsored ad content from Google searches as well. There is a very active reddit community which reports on bugs found, and since the extension is in active development, these are handled quickly.

I ran the extension on Enhanced Easy mode, which keeps most of the default filters and settings and adds a few other settings to further reduce the number of trackers. You can further customise the extension to disable plug ins, similar to what NoScript does.

It is clear that the extension is very powerful, and heavily customizable. Still, this does not make it unapproachable to the casual user. There is a comprehensive wiki on all parts of the extension, with additional reading on how to use it best for a power user.

uBO prides itself on how light it is, and it definately did not slow down my browsing experience. However, there wasn’t a significant difference in the speeds I encountered in these five extensions. Perhaps the difference is more evident on further browsing.

There is translation support for a few Indian languages (including Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu) with translation still in progress for others.

Final word: The extension is very powerful, while still being light on the system itself.

 

Disclaimer about a talk made by our former contractor at Internet Governance Forum 2018

In the wake of certain recent events, The Bachchao Project (hereinafter “TBP”) has been compelled to publish this disclaimer regarding a talk made by an erstwhile contractor of TBP at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) on 13 November 2018. A video of the talk is available on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nXB9if23Oo. The erstwhile contractor Ms Raashi Saxena has spoken for approximately 1 minutes 48 seconds from the time 33:50 to 35:38 in this video.

The talk is part of a panel discussion entitled “Impact of supplementary models of connectivity in enabling meaningful Internet access for women and gender non-binary persons”. It was delivered by Ms Saxena who represented TBP at this specific session as well as the rest of the IGF 2018. The talk was a part of IGF Best Practices Forum (Gender and Access) 2018. Her trip to the IGF was funded by TBP.

Ms Saxena was terminated from The Bachchao Project on 12 July 2019.

The contents of Ms Saxena’s talk are either half-correct or factually incorrect or misleading and portray our work as being of poor quality. In light of certain recent events, we are now publishing this public disclaimer that we do not approve of the contents of this talk. This talk is not a true reflection of the organisation’s research, advocacy and capacity-building efforts on intentional Internet shutdowns and access to the Internet in the northeast, which we have been doing since late 2017. This talk also does not reflect the tenacity, rigour and diligence that people at TBP bring to their work, and in which we take great pride.

Unfortunately, this talk has been referenced on several online pages, most of which were published after the former contractor’s affiliation with TBP had ended and in violation of the terms of her exit. Some of them have been listed below. On account of the disclaimer published above, these references are a misrepresentation of our organisation and its work:

“Through serving as a panelist at the United Nations Internet Governance Forum, Raashi has also been a strong voice for women in North East India, helping them with network accessibility issues and fighting against Internet Shutdowns faced by those living rurally.”

URL: https://www.studio-into.com/people/raashi-saxena/

Date: October 2019 (according to publicly available and searchable information on LinkedIn)

Archive URL: https://web.archive.org/web/20200724110415/https://www.studio-into.com/people/raashi-saxena

Our attempts to contact Studio Into have not elicited a response.

“In 2018, she served as a panelist at the United Nations Internet Governance Forum and presented her work on the network accessibility issues women face in North East India.”

URL1: https://igf2019.sched.com/raashisaxena

Date: November 2019

Archive URL1: https://web.archive.org/web/20200724193139/https://igf2019.sched.com/raashisaxena

URL2: https://voicefromthais.files.wordpress.com/2019/11/speakers-bios-1.pdf

Date: November 21-22, 2019

Archive URL2: https://web.archive.org/save/https://voicefromthais.files.wordpress.com/2019/11/speakers-bios-1.pdf

URL3: https://www.facebook.com/455359008576002/photos/a.483712769073959/483712742407295/?type=3

Date: 22 July 2019

Archive URL3: https://web.archive.org/web/20200724111903/https://www.facebook.com/455359008576002/photos/a.483712769073959/483712742407295/?type=3

“Raashi has been a speaker at several international forums such as UN Internet Governance Forum… for her contributions in the Internet Governance space. Her capacity building & advocacy efforts in the North East region of India have helped rural women fight against Internet Shutdowns.”

URL: https://women-in-tech.org/events/women-in-tech-monthy-forum/

Date: 30 January 2020

Archive URL: https://web.archive.org/save/https://women-in-tech.org/events/women-in-tech-monthy-forum

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.

 

 

Gender based violence in East India

Societies that discriminate on the basis of gender pay a significant price in terms of higher poverty,lower quality of life, slower economic growth, and weaker governance (Elizabeth King, 2001).

India’s rugged north-east( which consists of the seven states of Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and the Himalayan state of Sikkim) and eastren parts ( Jharkhand , Orissa , West Bengal, Sikkin) of India  has seen a rise in crimes against women over the past decade. In 2014, the National Crime Records Bureau reported that six of the north-east states have witnessed an accelerated increase in crimes against women. These crimes ranged from rape and kidnapping through to dowry death and domestic cruelty.

The region is multiethnic with heterogeneous cultural background and is different from mainstream homogeneous culture. Moreover in the last few decades insurgency has been the part and parcel of the life of the people of the region. Heavy militancy in the area, lack of access to economic opportunity and education has left many women vulnerable to becoming severely affected by trafficking, violence or systemic abuse.

The fear of not being believed, being stigmatized, being blamed, dread of revisiting the ordeal during interrogations are some reasons as to why so many incidents of crimes against women go unreported in a patriarchal society. The victim is the one who is left disgraced while the guilty perpetrator is offered impunity. These crimes reflect deep rooted gender inequalities that persist in India.

Studies show the high prevalence of all forms of violence against women across all socio-economic settings in eastern zone of India. Giving property right, access to employment and educational opportunity to women thus might not change the picture. A revolutionary change in the social and cultural values and behavioural pattern is necessary to foster the process of achieving gender equality. As soon as women feel that they have the capability to operate the society at the same term as men then achieving gender equality would not remain as a distant dream.

To combat the rising violence, sustainable solutions are needed to ensure protection of women from the East. Hackathon against Gender Based Violence is one such initiative that has brought together technologists and activists to creatively think of solutions.

In India the issues of gender based violence are influenced not only by individuals but have deep cultural issues attached to them. Hence, while building solutions one needs to think through these cultural issues. This event would act as an enabler to think about solutions around the local issues of gender based violence, involving discussions and learning opportunities along with building technology.

The aim of this event would be to create an environment for building sustainable solutions to Gender Based Violence. In doing so we also make sure the following are achieved in the process:

  •  To include the best practices of humanitarian technology building in the solutions
  •  To encourage creativity and new approaches to solving a persistent problem
  •  To encourage more women to participate in the solution building
  •  To build sustainable solutions through this event