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.