The human rights panel will be fantastic as it’s Danny, Jillian York, Rebecca Mackinnon, and Ebele Okobi-Harris talking about ways that companies can be aware of potential problems their users may have around the world. The panelists will likely be talking about Internet and social media use in recent political events in Libya, Iran, China, Tunisia, and Egypt, to show how important a web company’s infrastructure can be to political movements as well as to the protection of people’s individual safety and privacy.
No matter how narrow you think the use of your website or service will be, if it’s successful, it’ll be used in ways you’ll never expect – including life or death fights over human rights in foreign countries. The design of your sketchy PHP code might make the difference between a free press or a government clampdown, tortured dissidents or a bloodless coup. Twitter aids activists in Iran; Facebook helps the independent press in Ethiopia; World of Warcraft is policed for sedition in China. What is happening on your site that you don’t know about? And how can you design it so you help the good guys?
Drama and conflict in online social justice is usually best minimized and carefully managed. This presentation, which will focus more on examination than instruction, is not just about how to check your privilege. It’s about when to call out, and how to avoid abusing others. It’s about how to respond, when to check out, and how to take care of yourself in a community that demands everything of you.
I have a soft spot for Internet drama, giant flame wars and flameouts, and any intense political discussion, but especially the discussions that happen in the feminist blogosphere. They’re political consciousness raising, documented in detail, and they affect people’s lives deeply. I wrote a book chapter on it in The WisCon Chronicles: Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction, to talk about feminism, safe spaces, trolling, ethical responsibilities, and responses to controversies within feminist communities, so I’m very interested to see what Garland, Rachel, and the others in the room have to say.