Democracies worldwide have been placed at risk due to profiling and manipulation of citizens’ data and beliefs. Women and gender non-conforming people, particularly, but not only, those who are more vocal in the Internet, and address issues about sexual and reproductive rights, class struggles, gender equality and social justice, have been progressively targeted by a wide variety of technology-enabled attacks. Social network data have been requested in order to allow (or block) people to cross borders, to apply for credit and even to get jobs. A radical polarization of views between bubbles and even addiction of “likes” and “shares” are causing mental distress and disrupting any feeling of community or sisterhood.

Some would say that a few monopolistic companies have now more power to implement neocolonial policies, culture and behaviors than any given State have ever had before. While this all happens, data centers all over the globe are now responsible for high levels of CO2 emissions, and the hype narrative of a “must have innovation”, fed by planned obsolescence of electronic gadgets, has lead to an unrestrained consumption and massive production of toxic electronic waste. Trash that is dumped in the poorest countries, which were also exploited for mineral components used as source material for our electronics.

We could go on and on with this pessimistic examples, dismantling the shiny bright utopia once built around freedom and new technologies. Power relations and discrimination are being embedded in the way we are manufacturing, coding, using and regulating new technologies. And harmful consequences are growing exponentially, way beyond the Internet, as citizens, States and companies progressively dive into digitalization of all actions of our bodies and daily lives. But, are we doomed?

Absolutely, not. We still love innovations and believe they can be lead by better values. We still believe in humans, particularly those who work hard to deconstruct patriarchy, normativity and breathe for social justice. And the moment has never been more propitious for a shift in values. Changes are fed by awareness raising and promotion of critical views, collectively channeled into social movements. Remarkably, this is a moment of powerful coalition building of social movements, exactly due to more obvious overlaps in their agendas. After all, it was never so clear that what some have coined before as isolated “digital rights” were actually just about the same old fundamental human and environmental rights that we have been addressing for decades. The only difference is that these challenges are now pertained by the usages of technologies. This simple change in lenses and narratives sparkles promising synergies: geeks, hackers, artists and activists from “digital” and traditional civil rights movements now know they need to work way more closely than before.

Soon, we will enter a new phase of technological revolutions, a period in which artificial intelligence, virtual reality and biotechnology will merge computational power with our bodies and senses. What are the values that we want to bring to this trend? Coding Rights wants to promote awareness raising through research and storytelling; to increase synergies through capacity and coalition building; and to channel this powerful views towards advocacy and technology development for the construction of alternative feminist futures.

Joana Varon
Founder and Directress | Coding Rights

Download here the Annual Report | Coding Rights 2017