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Digital Security for LGBTI Communities

In the last decade the internet has paved the way for new communities to come together to talk, share and empower each other. For lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people around the world, especially in places where non-conventional sexualities are stigmatised, threatened or even illegal, access to online LGBTI communities provides essential space to connect with allies, friends and to learn about more about sexual rights. These platforms provide a moderated space and a level of privacy and anonymity allowing people to feel safer to make these connections, rather than meeting in physical spaces in person. Online spaces have also enabled people to express themselves in creative ways and to participate in bigger LGBTI movements. 

These positive developments have however come with new opportunities for homophobic responses, violence and coercion. In a recent short vlog ‘Rio Olympics, LGBTI Privacy & Dangers Of Clickbait’, Stephen Wood (IDS) talks about the incident at the Olympics where a journalist used a dating app to identify and ‘out’ a number of high profile athletes, some of whom come from countries where it is illegal to be LGBTI. This example highlights the illusory nature of online profiles and how they can generate a false sense of security and intimacy, masking a person’s real intentions. Stephen goes on to talk about the ‘double edge sword’ of connectivity vs. illusion in this blog, looking at a few examples including a terrifying case study where Egyptian police used a dating app to entrap gay men by posing as potential sexual partners, arranging meetings, then arresting the men when they turned up. 

More work needs to go into ensuring that LGBTI online spaces aren’t used for facilitating violence, blackmail and entrapment. Tactical Tech have created guides specifically for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex individuals and human rights defenders in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle-East and North Africa. The guides explores common threats, such as entrapment, extortion, harassment, and unauthorised access to devices. It then links to the tools and tactics which can help LGBTI persons to stay safe. 

There needs to be more accountability at national and international levels to address these threats but also on a personal level we need to better interrogate the LGBTI related stories that we see in the media. We need to ask ourselves if facts have been verified and whose security is at risk – we all need to act as whistleblowers in an age where media sources are becoming more defuse and unregulated. 

Below are links to relevant resources on the issue.

Digital Security for LGBTI Communities

Security in-a-Box Community Focus: digital security tools and tactics for the LGBTI community in sub-Saharan Africa
Tactical Technology Collective 2014
Tactical Tech have created a new guide: Tools and Tactics for the LGBTI community in sub-Saharan Africa. This is the second in the series of Security in-a-box Community Focus guides, which aim to further integrate digital security int...
Tools and tactics for the LGBTI community in the Middle-East and North Africa | security in-a-box
Tactical Technology Collective 2014
Tactical Tech have created a guide: Tools and Tactics for the LGBTI community in the Middle-East and North Africa (MENA). This is the first in the series of Security in-a-box Community Focus guides, which aim to further integrate digi...
Tactical Technology Collective 2016
This project was designed by Tactical Technology Collective and supported by Level Up to bring together a collection of materials around protecting yourself online. These projects have been curated and have been produced by a number o...
Research Methods and Visualisation Tools for Online LGBT Communities
P. Oosterhoff / Institute of Development Studies, Sussex [ES] 2014
Field research among geographically dispersed communities is time-consuming and costly. When people are stigmatised, field research has additional ethical and logistical problems. In many countries lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgend...
Responding to the Safety and Security Needs of LGBTI Communities and Organisations: A situational analysis of Malawi, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe
Hivos 2013
The Safety and Security Project within Hivos’s (Humanist Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries) LGBTI Programme aims to ensure that LGBTI persons are able to live and work within safe communities without the fear of...
Inclusion and Security of LGBTI Workers
RedR - Registered Engineers for Disaster Relief 2016
RedR UK and EISF hosted a workshop on Friday 22nd January 2016, exploring current practices and issues that international development and humanitarian organisations’ encounter when approaching the inclusion and security of both i...
Supporting Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Intersex human rights defenders in the digital age
O'Clunaigh Dan / Feminist Africa 2013
The widespread diffusion of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) has empowered activists and minority communities to spread information, campaign, build communities and challenge injustice in new and powerful ways. The L...