Chitra Nagarajan’s piece in the Guardian, “What Does a Feminist Internet Look Like?“, is an excellent call to action for taking feminist principles and applying them to technology usage and governance. I won’t recap it here; you ought to read the original. But I will highlight two key passages. This:
In this future, there are more feminists and LGBT people in internet governance, making decisions and creating technologies, in contrast to the current male domination of this space. According to Facebook’s own figures released in 2015, men made up 68% of all employees, 77% of those in senior leadership and 85% of those working in technology. Twitter’s 2015 figures reveal that men make up 66% of the company, 87% of those in tech jobs and 78% of those in leadership. Google is no better – men make up 69% of all employees, 76% of those in leadership and 81% of those in technical jobs.
What does it mean when the primary spaces for so many public and private interactions, including activism, are owned by corporations from one part of the world, run by mainly white men? We need to create alternative forms of economic power around technologies. Using and sharing information about free and open-source software, tools and platforms is key to this.
One of the visions I’ve had for alternative social media is precisely the one Nagarajan is expressing here: a need to challenge the power of corporate social media by developing, supporting, and using alternatives to Facebook and Twitter. Nagarajan, however, rightly draws attention to the dynamics of gender and ethnicity in this mix.
In theory, a feminist alternative to Twitter or Facebook is quite possible. Feminist technologists could use Gnu Social or Elgg to develop a feminist social network, realizing some of the goals Nagarajan has laid out.
In practice, however, I have not seen such an effort in the alternative media space. There are small things, such as “Feminism on the Dark Web” on Galaxy2. But so far — unless I’m missing it, which is very possible — I see no Feministbook or Femicroblog.
So, what would a feminist alternative social media system look like? Can one be built?