Test Manual

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This manual is a community-built resource for our growing community of women and trans* activists, human rights defenders and technologists. It is designed to be a living, growing collection of practical guidance and information that uniquely speaks to our needs, experiences, and activism, both online and offline. Content listed in the manual was created in response to our community’s requests for ideas and guidance they needed, but couldn’t find elsewhere. Therefore, this initial manual content doesn’t cover many other topics that we hope to add with your support and input as it evolves here on the wiki. The current manual explores two overlapping issues:

  • First, how can we craft appropriate online presences (or a series of them) that strengthen our ability to communicate and work online safely?
  • Secondly, how can we collaboratively create safe online and offline spaces that enable our communities to share, collaborate, and communicate safely?

The manual grew out of the 2014 Gender and Technology Institute [1], organised by Tactical Technology Collective and the Association for Progressive Communications (APC). The Institute brought together almost 80 participants and facilitators—mostly from the Global South—to focus on issues faced daily by women and trans* persons online and offline, to share strategies and tools for better protecting our digital privacy and security, as well as show we can spread this knowledge and skills with our communities and organisations. Since then, our network has expanded, so this manual has benefited from the input and review of a wide range of people. It is informed by the stories and creative practices of grass-roots activists, digital and holistic security facilitators, privacy advocates, and people making technology around the world.

The guide is also informed by the advocacy of groups like APC and others, who are working to reframe Internet rights as human rights. This involves broadening the focus of policy discussions from girls’ and women’s access to and use of technology to include technology-related violence as part of the continuum of gender based violence. Phenomena such as cyber-stalking, hate speech and blackmail violate women and trans* persons rights to privacy, work, public participation, freedom from violence and freedom of expression and opinion. It also causes us to censor ourselves or refrain from speaking up at all. This ultimately hinders our momentum in the various movements and communities we are part of.

In such a complex environment where online and offline activities, identities and realities can appear separate, but are often deeply intertwined, confusion or uncertainty about others’ intentions, identities and actions can make it very easy to end up anxious or withdrawing from activities all together. How can we then as women and trans* persons develop trust and a greater sense of certainty when using ephemeral technology to create content, interact with others, grow trusted networks, and create safe spaces for ourselves? This manual explores some of the behaviours that you can individually and collectively adopt and adapt to develop the trust and certainty we need to continue to safely enjoy the freedoms and empowerment that the Internet uniquely offers us.

The first part of the manual looks at the (often unseen) information traces that are created and recorded as we use the Internet, online services, and digital devices. It offers various strategies and tools available for reclaiming control of these digital traces. It describes what these traces are, how they are created, and who can 'see' them. All together, these individual digital traces form clearer outlines of who we are, what we do, what we like, and how we act. We call these aggregations of digital traces 'digital shadows,' and we'll discuss why these matter and how you can minimise them. Minimization of our 'digital shadows' online involves powerful, creative, and fun tactics of managing different types of new online identities. We cover the various options and ways to manage online identities, as well as the risks and benefits of each, and discuss the definitions and utility of anonymity, pseudonyms, collective names and real names.

The second part focuses on safe spaces. It starts with the online world and discusses how safe spaces can be created and used for community-building, organising and support. It then looks at some creative tactics for addressing exclusion and harassment of women and trans* people online. Finally, it discusses different methods for creating safe spaces in the physical world where women and trans* persons can safely communicate, collaborate, and learn from one another.

This manual, built from the first year of the “Securing Online and Offline Freedoms for Women: Expression, Privacy and Digital Inclusion” programme, was written for individuals and groups who want to improve their security and privacy practices meanwhile including gender in the equation, as well those who are training and helping others and driving advocacy on those issues. Please let us know what you think of this content and help us to improve it [2]. We also invite you to be involved in designing and co-create future chapters that will best help you, your work, and your communities.

Including gender into privacy and digital security

While you're reading this manual (and putting some of what's in it into practice), it's important to keep some things in mind. Including gender into privacy and security requires us to take an intersectional approach - one that engages with a diversity of culture, social status, gender identification, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity and other power structures that create inequality for individuals and communities with regard to their access to security tools and practices. It also requires us to look at privacy and security with a gender perspective, by having a broad view on technology, including how it is manufactured and the laws used to govern the internet. This includes:

  • Acknowledging that gender gaps, discrimination and gender-based violence are both structural and discursive in the way they are deeply embedded in language, narratives, definitions, social structures and laws. These deeply influence the conditions of women and trans* persons in relation to their access to and experience with technology and the Internet.
  • Understanding how women and trans* persons in different conditions find ways of accessing technologies, and a consideration of how they can protect themselves and others in the process.
  • Sharing skills and knowledge on the ground so that women and trans persons can strengthen their freedom of opinion and expression.
  • Remembering it is important to make women and trans* experiences in the management and development of technologies visible (not just the digital ones, but also appropriated ones like health technologies for instance).
  • Working to enable a greater participation of women and trans* persons in institutions which contribute to the governance of internet, as well as inside companies and organisations delivering services which support our networking and online identity.
  • ̈Imagining liberating technologies that enables the full realisation and exercise of human rights, and that are inclusive of diversity, is the responsibility of anybody involved in creating an inclusive, accessible, decentralised and neutral internet, not just women and trans* persons only.


As part of this, when choosing to use a specific technology, system, or digital service, we should remember to consider certain issues: Is it liberating, or does it alienate certain individuals and groups? “Liberating technologies” can be defined as those that are designed mindfully, fairly produced and distributed, are rooted in free and open-source software principles, are not designed for ‘planned obsolescence’, and are built to be secure by design. In the same spirit—but ultimately determined by what users do—that the technologies, systems, and digital services we choose are not designed for or are resistant to gender-based violence and surveillance [3].

Many of these issues are addressed in the Feminist Principles on the Internet [4] developed by the APC in 2014, when they gathered a group of woman human rights defenders and feminist activists to a Global Meeting on Gender, Sexuality and the Internet. The principles look at the ways in which the internet can be a transformative public and political space for women, trans* and feminists. They place tech-related violence on the continuum of gender-based violence, making clear the structural aspect of violence, linking expanding and/or mirroring online attitudes with offline prejudices.

As Valentina pelizzer hvale from One World Platform explains, the principles “should be part of the agenda of any feminist activists, individuals, group or organizations and should consistently and by default be part of Women's Human Rights Defenders strategy, because the feminism we advocate is an extension, reflection and continuum of our movements and resistance in other spaces, public and private...A space of agitation and construction of political practices so that the internet facilitates new forms of citizenship that enable individuals to claim, construct, and express our selves, genders and sexualities.” [5]