The Feminist Observatory of the Internet

IT for Change, with support from the World Wide Web Foundation, is deepening the conceptual reflections on emerging feminist debates in platform society. By engaging in nuanced debates, dialogues and discussions on women in digital economy, we seek to build influence in shaping public debate in this domain. This will be done through the publication of articles and interviews bringing multidisciplinary and geographically diverse perspectives on feminist struggles into the current paradigm.

Research Outputs

Gender Perspectives on the Digital Economy: Essays from ITfC's National Gender Fellowship Program, 2022

April 2023: As a part of IT for Change’s National Gender Fellowship Program, 2022, we invited long-form essay proposals from Indian academics, civil society researchers, and journalists in order to expand the journalistic discourse on issues faced by women in India's rapidly-expanding digital economy.

This compendium of eight essays offers readers succinct and nuanced perspectives on the structural shortcomings of current digital platforms that aid monopolistic Big Tech’s accumulation of power and capital, exacerbating existing economic inequities faced by women in the Global South.

By highlighting the limits of existing means of inquiry into the digital economy and labor, our researchers aim to underscore new modalities of research, as well as emerging alternative paradigms that can meaningfully and advantageously improve women’s economic participation and gains.

Read the complete compendium here.

Media Pieces

Feminist Digital Futures (Bot Populi Podcast Series)

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March, 2021: Feminist Digital Futures, a series on the Bot Populi podcast, launched on March 8, 2021. The first set of conversations in this series explores feminist imaginations of social media with scholars, activists and leaders from the Global South. How does the intersectionality of gender identities affect the way we experience social media? What does feminist social media look like? What changes in platform governance and alternative techno-design can help us realize feminist visions of social media? Join us as we discuss all these questions and more with our guests.

Education: Weakening Connectivity and Growing Inequalities (Bot Populi)

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October, 2020: The Covid-19 pandemic has seen schools in many parts of the world shift to online learning. But differences in access to internet connectivity and electronic devices has exposed and deepened fault lines of inequality on the basis of gender. The intersections of class and geography further deepen this divide. Gender norms mean that girls face greater disadvantages in acquiring the ICT skills necessary to navigate online learning, whether in school or at home, and are less likely to have access to a digital device. This article by Corina Rodríguez Enríquez and Masaya Llavaneras Blanco reflects on how the right to education is becoming limited for children, particularly girls, living in precarious socio-economic environments in the Global South and argues for more public investment to bolster connectivity and access.

What’s So Private about Online Sexual Harassment? (Bot Populi)

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October, 2020: As women stake their claim in online publics, many have faced backlash in the form of online gender-based violence, much of which has been dismissed based on the patriarchal idea of women's presence in public spaces begetting "temptation". Additionally, the purely geo-spatial understanding of "public space" in Indian laws addressing sexual harassment, and the general legal ambiguity about online publics, has lead to the accused in cases of online sexual harassment being acquitted. This article by Bhavna Jha argues that the existing legal interpretations of public place no longer hold true in a digital world and emphasizes the necessity of a feminist review of laws that are blind to the reality of spatial fluidity in a post-digital society.

Articulating a Feminist Response to Online Hate Speech: First Steps (Bot Populi)

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October, 2020: As online publics become integral parts of people's public and private lives, particularly due to Covid-19, it is more important than ever to consider the ramifications of online hate speech against women and femininity. While the judiciary and social media platforms have tried to control online misogyny, their 'solutions' have been inadequate; sidestepping concerns of privacy, consent, and women’s dignity to focus on 'honor', free-speech, etc. This article by Anita Gurumurthy and Bhavna Jha shows how it is essential to collaboratively develop a feminist articulation of how sexist hate can be curtailed across the techno-legal fictions of public, private, and digital spaces – making them safe and equally accessible.

Seven Questions Unpacking Cancel Culture (Bot Populi)

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September, 2020: With social movements finding an increasingly large base in the online public space, 'cancelling' individuals who have wronged a vulnerable person/group has become a common practice, particularly on social media platforms. While ‘cancelling’ can be a radical, extra-judicial means for people who cannot access institutional justice to hold the powerful accountable, its self-righteous binarism risks being reduced to hate speech — appropriated by the marketized attention economy. This article by R. Vaishno Bharati shows how it is essential to re-orient cancel culture to be mindful of the market forces that benefit from it while also ensuring that it accounts for context, intention, introspection, marginalized communities, and social movements.

Beauty and the Platform Economy (Bot Populi)

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August, 2020: The already precarious working conditions of women beauty workers on platforms like Urban Company have worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many have lost their jobs and face uncertain futures, even as the platforms expand and diversify their business. This article by Khawla Zainab explores the precarity and invisibalization of young, single migrant women workers. Platforms like Urban Company have not given them PPE kits, their gigs do not pay as much as the company claims, and they continue to pay high commission fees. Many women have been forced to drop out of the labor force and return home to unpaid domestic work. The piece undertakes a feminist analysis to expose the exploitation of women workers by platforms like Urban Company and hold them accountable.

Humanizing the Digital Justice Debate (Bot Populi)

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July, 2020: This article by Gita Sen emphasizes the importance of centering human beings and human relationships, and by extension, gender in debates on digital justice through the metaphor of "the canary in the mine". It illustrates the ways in which women are disproportionately affected by digitization, offering instances from macroeconomics, labor and livelihoods, healthcare, and education. The paradigmatic shift ushered in by big computerization and digital transformation needs to be considered from a feminist lens to understand and address the inequalities it has created and reinforced.

A Chinese Feminist’s Reflections on the Pandemic (Bot Populi)

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June, 2020: In this article, Chinese feminist Cai Yiping recounts her experiences and encounters as she travels across China during the pandemic which, at the time of writing this, had forced 1.4 billion to hibernate. Yiping traces the ways in which the Covid-19 crisis has amplified existing inequalities, allowed for increased surveillance by the government, and left the poor and marginalized more vulnerable than ever before. She underpins the importance of kindness, sympathy, and solidarity to counter fear and mistrust in times of a pandemic. At the same time, she impresses upon us the need to hold people in power accountable.

Events and Engagements

Understanding Data Capitalism (Workshop on Digitalisation and Women)

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October, 2020: IT for Change's Khawla Zainab and Ankita Aggarwal gave a presentation on Understanding Data Capitalism as part of a two-day workshop on Digitalisation and Women. The workshop, organized by World March of Women, saw feminist activists from across countries coming together to discuss issues such as digitalization and women's labor, discrimination and inequalities regarding algorithms, data extractivism and artificial intelligence, digital violence, digitalism and feminist activism.


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