New technology benefits LGBT community, but also brings challenges and difficulties to it, especially to LGBT activism.
The panel, The Risks to LGBT Activism in a Digitally Connected World, held by The ISC Project and Freedom House, is trying to provide some background and insights on this topic.
In the later part of the panel, interestingly, attendees and panelists talked a lot about the morality of gay dating app developers and companies.
The main reason behind this might be what happened in Egypt last September. Egyptian police used Grindr, a popular networking app for gay men to hook up and seek casual sexual encounters, to target and arrest gay men in Cairo,
Grindr benefited gay community in a modern way. It created a special language for only gay people. With its special social networking functions and LBS (location-based service), it means in some homophobic regions, gay men could still easily contact gay men without revealing their sexual orientation, build a community. Also it brings dangers to the community just because of these new technologies. In the Egypt case, homophobic authorities could easily pinpoint gay men with LBS and their uploaded photos. They became more vulnerable.
However, should gay dating app developers or companies, like Grindr, should be responsible for this?
One attendee, who was with Tech Change, said it is rare that gay dating app developers to consider LGBT people’s safety when they start the project. They are program writers, with no experience in human rights.
At the same time, if the company tries to monitor data and make it confidential, it is a huge cost. Usually the company won’t spend too much on this.
I am now a nonprofit worker. I totally understand the question which most people had. “If it costs a little money and it can do social good, why don’t we do it?” But I’ve also worked in a for-profit. I also totally understand, for the biggest profit, a company can do whatever it can to recreate the biggest profit if it doesn’t violate regulations and laws.
People in different sectors speak in their own languages. Nonprofit are pursuing social goods, but when nonprofit workers start with ideas and spread them to the world, the world sometimes doesn’t buy it because of different goals and missions.
Like Grindr would never spend a huge amount of money to secure their data can never be used in abusing LGBT community.
However, in the brainstorming session, the panel did come out with some useful strategies. The panelist Hossein Alizadeh from International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), said the easiest way is to put a notice of risks within these apps. Mark Bromley, Council Chair from the Council of Global Equality, where I am serving, mentioned that international LGBT nonprofits should collaborate with for-profits, like gay dating app developers. They can come up with standards and regulations in LGBT people’s protection, which LGBT companies can try to reach. A certificate can be created if they achieve it, so that more users can use it without worrying cases in Egypt.
Other participants also mentioned in other platforms, like App Store, there should be a rating system on LGBT safety, also the education of “sexual rights”. Also, it is a good idea to invite gay dating app developers to sit in one room to talk about it. At least it is a good start.
And in the panel, I knew that there are already some LGBT app companies starting foundations and nonprofits to help vulnerable LGBT people who are at risk, like Grindr and Menhunt. Also, some nonprofits started Dignity for All: LGBTI Assistance Program, which provides emergency funds, advocacy support, and security assistance to human rights defenders and civil society organizations under threat or attack due to their work for LGBT rights.
That is what is changing now. Yes. People in different sectors can speak the same language, for the sake of human rights.