Take Back The Tech

Take Back the Tech: take action – online and off – to end violence against women

Whether its through community radio, posters, sms, emails, audiocasts or websites, creative and informed use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) helps get the word out on violence against women (VAW). We have to know about technology to best use it for our activism, we have to understand it to protect ourselves and others, and to keep shaping an internet for all. From 25 November to 10 December it’s time once again to “Take Back the Tech!” and use ICTs to end violence against women.

Women around the world are increasingly using ICTs to strategise, protest and mobilise: an SMS message brought together hundreds of women to protest their right to choose in the UK in a “flashmob”; an online petition in a social networking community attracted signatures against the stoning of women in Kurdistan from corners of the world previously unimaginable; mobile phones allow for quick snapshots to document abuse; blogs in dozens of languages decry VAW. At the same time, perpetrators of VAW also take advantage of technology: a husband switches his wife’s SIM card to spy on her mobile phone callers in Free State, South Africa; the Iranian government repeatedly blocks access within Iran to a website calling for an end to discriminatory laws against Iranian women.

For 16 days of activism against VAW, the APC Women’s Programme (APC WNSP) calls on all ICT users to stretch and hone internet skills and strategies for activism to ensure women’s safety online and off.

What is the campaign about?

Take Back the Tech is a collaborative campaign by internet users, advocates,collectives and organisations that take issue with the prevalence of VAW in our diverse realities. Initiated by APC WNSP in 2006, the campaign is part of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence initiative.

It is our right to shape, define, participate, use and share knowledge,information and technology, and to create digital spaces that protect everyone’s right to interact freely without harassment or threat to safety. Take Back the Tech calls on all users of ICTs – especially grrls and women – to take control of technology and consciously use it to disrupt unequal power relations.

How can you Take Back the Tech?

Throughout the 16 days, daily actions using the internet to fight against VAW aim to stretch skills and knowledge around ICTs and VAW. It’s an opportunity to take time to play with technology for a purpose – exploring mapping, editing audio, transforming photos, sending mass SMS through the internet – to take action with new tools or apply the tools you use every day in a different way. Simply visit the campaign website at http://www.takebackthetech.net to check out the latest daily action.

Local campaigners have embraced Take Back the Tech in different ways: training women’s organisations in web 2.0 tools to help get the word out in Mexico and Uruguay; putting resources in local languages such as Khmer in Cambodia; building computers – and learning how to sew – in Brazil. Campaigners are organising online protest petitions and audiocasting public forums. Every other day a new campaign will be featured on the Take Back the Tech website. Check out a campaign spotlight, learn about the local reality of violence women face and challenge, and help their cause from afar.

Start your own Take Back The Tech campaign. Every year, independent and creative initiatives to Take Back The Tech have taken off in different parts of the world, translating content and action to address local needs and priorities. Use the campaign website to highlight your action, find useful tools and tips, and adapt images and graphics to your needs. You can even create your own page on the site, just email us to let us know how we can support your action.

Deepen the debate around violence against women by joining the 16 day blogathon. New to blogging? This is the perfect reason to start your own, or at least, click that ‘comment’ button to have your say. Daily topics will be posted on the campaign site to stir conversation, as well as instructions on how to set up a blog.

Learn by listening to the experience and stories of women and men affected by VAW. The campaign website will feature digital stories, audiocasts, video clips and postcards. If you have something you would like to share, just log on to the campaign site and submit your story.

Help shape the campaign by sharing your experience and ideas. Submit your thoughts at the campaign website, and make it part of the campaign.

Check the www.takebackthetech.net daily from 25 November to 10 December, and take action. Reclaim technology to end violence against women.

For more information, consult the FAQ at http://takebackthetech.net/about/campaign or send an email to ideas@takebackthetech.net


Reported from the Defiance, Ohio site:

Two nights ago, at our show in Bloomington, I talked about why I’m voting in this election and why I’m frustrated that many of my punk and activist friends feel like not voting somehow changes all the things that are wrong in our world and all the things that are problematic about electoral politics. As usual, I didn’t feel like I articulated myself as well as I wanted to, but instead of trying to explain at greater length why I’m voting for Barack Obama in November especially in the presidential race, despite realizing all the problems with many of Obama’s policies and rhetoric and the shortcomings of electoral politics in general, I’d like to quote from Adrienne Marie Brown (who works with projects like the Ruckus Society, League of Pissed Off Voters, and Allied Media Projects) from her post i want barack obama to be the next president of the united states, but.. because she says it really well:

… i feel like two people watching this.one sees this strategic, dynamic, mixed race man, skillfully touching all the bases on his way home to the white house. that self drinks the kool-aid as much as a cynic can, i am impressed by his grasp and execution of community organizing and mobilization, how he has crafted himself as king and kennedy and more. he seems to have been made for this moment, even for skeptics and community organizers. i lean in when he speaks, trying to disguise my own smiles at some of the lovely lines that slip in between the ones that hurt me, or disappoint me.

the other side sees the parts i disagree with, the special interests, the effects of a broken and at this point actively stupid and elitist, capitalist, empire-protecting system. i see how he has to say things that are morally reprehensible if he wants to consider being elected to this position, and god knows which of his values will have to be compromised once he’s in office, that place most distant from the people of the nation. i believe that we would need 50,000 baracks or people more radical than him running at the local level to experience any changes based on leadership like his. and yet…

what the rest of world will understand with this shift!

i am not on a fence between republican or democrat, i am not tempted by green at the federal level. i want a multi-party system with permanent records of voting (paper ballots), same day registration, a vote for anyone paying taxes, and proportional representation, but i don’t think the path to get there is by placing us in john mccain’s fragile, feeble, maverick hands by splitting the progressive vote. i specifically want barack obama to be the next president of the united states, in spite of all my doubts and cynicisms and fears. i like how he splits the difference on the hardest issues, i like his (or his speechwriter’s) ability to find a common sense middle ground, and i like that he is passionate and visionary at a time when the easiest space to occupy is debilitating and isolating anger.

and because it scares me to feel even slightly authentic in my excitement about a candidate, understanding what i do about the history of candidate failures, disappointments, flip-flopping or sheer incompetence, the broken system, the inherent flaws of humanity that makes us desire hierarchy so…i will not hit the streets stumping for obama, i will not start a little fundraising page for him that spirits more money away from the projects i work on 365 days a year election or not. i will continue to pour my energy into election protection, and raise money to support grassroots organizations who make sure candidates who are willing to listen have organized bodies to hear from.

but behind a closed door, rereading the transcript of his speech on race, delving into his organizing analysis from his early years in chicago, seeing parts of my story in his own, and wanting to debate him about those issues on which i deeply disagree with him, i confess: i want barack obama to be the next president of the united states.

I urge everyone to read the post in its entirety. What I love about it is that it shows that political engagement is not about a singular decision or moment, it is not about investing oneself fully in the promises or rhethoric of a candidate (or a grassroots movement for that matter). To me, politics have always been about the constant process of questioning and requestioning both the external and internal messages. It has always been about reconciling hope, fear, anger, cynicism, and accountability to my history, my family, my loved ones, my community, and the social work that I do.

technology and activism

Here are two new instances of technology (both via boingboing) that seem to really aid social justice movements.

Cause Caller is a VOIP tool that lets you define a cause and contacts related to that cause (for instance, congressional representatives on a panel investigating a particular issue).  Users can then enter their phone number and the application will call them back and connect them with the different contacts.

ICED (I Can End Deportation) is a video game made by the human rights group Breakthrough that, according to Breakthrough’s website:

puts you in the shoes of an immigrant to illustrate how unfair immigration laws deny due process and violate human rights. These laws affect all immigrants: legal residents, those fleeing persecution, students and undocumented people.

balancing beam

I was responding to a friend who asked me about balancing my work life and my involvement in community activism.  As I wrote my response, I realized that it was something that I wanted to save as a reminder to myself:

Although I only work 20 hours a week or so, having a job that now requires more mental energy and has projects, responsibilities and deadlines makes it seem much bigger than 20 hours worth of space.  Also, I have a flexible schedule, which is good because it means that I can make it to most things I want, but also a problem because it means I spend a lot of time and energy scheduling and rescheduling.  I think I need to strike a better balance so that I have a more regular schedule and spend less time scheduling, even if it means having to say, “no, I can’t make it to that” more often.

Ultimately, I think that I really need to stop having such a schizophrenic existence and try to find a way to pay the bills by doing technology work to support grassroots community projects instead of trying to pay the bills and do technology work + activism.  I also need to find a way to balance my role (which I enjoy) as a technology implementer so I’m also involved in the communication, thinking, and essential work of the groups I work with and not just the IT person.  I’m not sure how to do this quite yet.

Turn off your lights to draw attention to the release of the IPCC’s much awaited latest report on climate change! 7:55 – 8pm.

From a Yahoo! news article:

“By turning off lights and also electrical gadgets that are in stand-by mode, “citizens, the media and decision-makers will get the message about energy waste and the urgent need for action,” the Alliance for the Planet said on Friday.”

The Alliance for the Planet is an umbrella of about 50 green associations, including the local branches of Greenpeace and WWF, and professional organisations connected with the environment.

The UN’s paramount scientific authority on climate change meets in Paris from January 29 to February 1 to hammer out the first volume of a long-awaited report on the state of global warming today.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is widely expected to declare that climate change is already on the march, many years sooner than expected, and the consequences for humans and biodiversity could be dire.”

Link to the article on turning off lights
Link to Climate Crisis Coalition website with more info on climate change

daniel mcgowan

Friends in DC want Defiance, Ohio to play a benefit show for Daniel. I’m inclided to do this. Reading the court documents regarding and FBI informant who closely followed the Crimethinc. scene and was even in Bton this summer for the convergence hit a little close to home. Unlike that sting, however, where the defendents seem a bit like bumbling kids, Daniel’s case seems like a clear attempt for the FBI to target activists involved in legitimate, above-ground community organizing with the attempt of chilling such resistance. It could be any of us next. If they come for you in the morning, then they’ll come for me at night …

publish.nyc.indymedia.org | Brooklyn activist faces life in prison on 16-count arson indictment; Bail Denied, Extradiction to Eugene, Ore. Pending:

Daniel McGowan, 31, was arrested in New York City while working at WomensLaw.org, an advocacy organization that provides legal information for victims of domestic violence. He was held overnight, and brought before a judge in the Brooklyn Federal Court to determine whether he would be released on bail pending his arraignment and trial in Eugene, Oregon. The hearing is currently adjourned until Friday, Dec. 9 at 2 pm, while the judge will review a surveillance recording that an arresting detective alleges demonstrates McGowan is a flight risk.


democracynow.org | New York Activist Faces Life in Prison; Feds Accuse Him of Eco-Terrorism:

Daniel McGowan was one of six environmental activists arrested last week in a series of coordinated raids across four states. He is accused of setting a pair of arsons in Oregon in 2001 and is being held without bail. [includes rush transcript]

Finally, this came across my radar a few months ago:

Daniel McGowan is an environmental and social justice
activist, unjustly arrested and charged in federal
court on 16 counts of arson, property destruction, and
conspiracy, relating to two incidents that occurred in
Oregon in 2001.  Daniel has plead "not guilty" and
denies any knowledge or involvement in the crimes he
is being charged with.  He is facing a minimum of 30
years in prison and the possibility of life in prison
if convicted.

Daniel is from New York, and has been an active member
of the community, working on diverse projects such as
the demonstrations against the Republican National
Convention, Really Really Free Markets, and supporting
political prisoners such as Jeff "Free" Luers and
others.  Daniel was attending graduate school for
acupuncture and was working at Women's Law, a
nonprofit group that helps women in domestic abuse
situations navigate the legal system, which is where
he was arrested by federal marshals on December 7th,

Daniel was indicted separately, but his arrest comes
in the context of a well-coordinated, multi-state
sweep of six activists by the federal government,
which has charged the individuals with practically every
earth and animal liberation case left unsolved. The
arrests were made primarily from information
investigators received from activist-turned-informant,
Jacob "Sketcher D" Ferguson. Jacob is cooperating with
federal investigators and wore wiretapping devices
while speaking with several of the defendants,
including Daniel.  Since then, one of those arrested,
Stanislas Meyerhoff, has also decided to cooperate
with the prosecution, hoping that the court will show
"mercy."  Daniel has stated that there will never be
any cooperation on his part with his "captors."

In order to help Daniel, his family and friends have
created a support network (Family and Friends of
Daniel McGowan) in order to help fund Daniel's legal
representation which is expected to be hundreds of
thousands of dollars. We are asking his friends and
supporters to donate what they can to help Daniel's
family with the legal bills.  The support group will
also be covering the cost of postage and telephone
calls, travel expenses for prison visits, reading
material for Daniel, his commissary fund, and whatever
other needs might arise.

Donate by clicking here:

In addition, we want to make sure that Daniel is
getting the emotional support he needs to remain
strong throughout this process.  He really appreciates
letters and we are asking everyone to please write to

Daniel McGowan
# 1407167
Lane County Jail
101 West 5th Avenue
Eugene, OR 97401

Please remember when writing to not discuss his
pending case, do not use any nicknames, do not discuss
legal information or offer legal advice (even if you
are a lawyer), don't discuss any illegal activity, and
be smart-- remember that ALL mail is read by prison

On behalf of Daniel, we thank you for your support.

Questions and concerns can be directed to