Accustomed as we are to the convenience of being constantly online, it is sometimes easy to forget that this can be a dangerous space — especially if you’re a woman. From receiving threatening messages from abusive ex-partners to revenge porn, perpetrators of abuse have found a whole host of ways to control, coerce and manipulate women in the digital sphere. From our own experiences and talking to women who have experienced domestic violence, we know that many feel constantly vulnerable online as they are often afraid that those abusing them could track their online activities to discover their whereabouts. For those in abusive relationships, the partners often monitor their social media or ask them to come off it — making them feel cut off from the world, especially friends and family.
We want you to know that to stay safe online, you do not need to take drastic steps, such as completely removing your online presence — you just need to know the tools and techniques to be safer online.
To help you do this, we’ve laboured for more than a year and created an easy to use, intersectional “Do It Yourself Online Safety guide” with the help of industry security experts, activists and survivors of online violence in more than 15 countries. It’s like getting personalised advice from your BFF who just happens to be a cat as well as a security whizz and speaks 7 languages in addition to English. Coolest cat, ever, right?!
In December last year, we launched the English version of it in partnership with UK Says No More and now we’re ecstatic to share with you the guide in in Arabic, Spanish, French, Farsi, Pashto, Urdu and Russian.
This guide won’t protect you from experienced hackers or the state — but it will help you fight back against an average harasser.
Where did it all start?
There are a lot of Facebook groups that are run by survivors of abuse as spaces of healing and peer support. With some groups being as active as a few posts every minute, women discuss a variety things — from how it felt to buy their favourite tea brand and pastry after leaving an abusive partner to dealing with police. A lot of Chayn volunteers are active in these forums, listening and speaking to women in an informal capacity. We noticed how every few posts, a survivor would post a link to her Facebook profile and ask others to check what could be seen publicly. There was generally a lot of hysteria around being online. While we were aware that this issue was of concern to women in many of the places we are active (Pakistan, India, US, UAE etc), the push for the guide came from one of these groups.
We started to dispel some of the fears of women by showing how their partners were keeping tabs on them by doing simple things like monitoring the check-ins of their best friends whose privacy settings were lax or looking at their amazon account or browsing history. When we answered questions from confused women, they were so relieved and kept asking for why there wasn’t a resource like this. Most of the resources on online security at the moment are targeted to women activists, journalists and public figures.
How was this put together?
Discovering that vulnerable women were getting themselves into such a negative downward spiral, Chayn felt compelled to act and so started conducting research into the ways that women are able to capitalise on the social opportunities presenting by online media whilst minimising the risks. After reading existing online resources, exploring the security and privacy settings of social media platforms and speaking directly with survivors we found that just as we are able to take steps to protecting ourselves in the physical world (think safety in numbers and always making sure someone you trust knows where you are if you’re coming home late at night), we are also able to implement relatively simple measures that help us stay safe online.
Completing this project has been a real labour of love Chayn as we have worked tirelessly over the last 18 months to ensure that all women can access and make use of all the technology that we adore without having to compromise their safety. You can read the methodology of the guide here.
In fact we are so proud of the guide, and its advanced big sister, that we have published it on Gitbooks under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence so that anyone can share and redistribute it under the same license — sharing really is caring! We hope that this will allow as many women as possible to benefit from our insight and fully reap the rewards of being part of a safe online community.