miércoles, 13 de julio de 2016

The #digital dimension of #LGTB rights

The recognition of LGTBI rights is spreading, at least in Europe. The policy of naming and shaming the countries less respectful with gender indentity and sex orientation is having as a result in the European Union a relentlessly progress towards equaility. However, if we take a closer look, we will discover that in this matter, once more, we are forgetting the digital dimension of policy making. For instance, there is usually no explicit recognition of the same rights of laws to the digital world. Although it could be understood an implicit extension of equality rights, this oblivion sometimes creates gaps and could be improving in its enforcement.

There are few policy papers dedicated to the LGTBI dimension of Internet policies. I have only encountered one paper called "A Vision for Inclusion: An LGBT Broadband Future" and a debate in the IGF 2015 on "How Can Internet Policy-Making Support LGBT Rights?". Both of them put forward common ideas. Above all, the importance of having internet access for LGTBI individuals based in some results of the 2013 study of the Pew Research on LGTB behaviours. LGTB adults use more social networks than the general public (80% vs 58%) , it is for them a critical tool for connecting with each other (more than 55% have ever met a friend online) and helps in getting out of the closet (46% have revealed their identity or orientation online). 

A recent article on the New York Times focused in the special importance of Internet access for the transgender community. The minor size of the group and its fragmentation makes the network one of the few scenarios where they can meet others like themselves. Therefore, Social Networks are growing in its importance for activism and visibility of a long time ignored community

But the networks can also be a dangerous place for the LGTBI individuals. For instance, in Spain nearly 13% of Internet hate speech cases in 2015 were focused in gender identity or sexual orientation and school cyberbullying is thrice more frequent towards LGTB children. The former are consistent with the data from a GLSEN study that showed that US LGTB youth were nearly three times as likely as non-LGTB youth to say they had been bullied or harassed online (42% vs. 15%). However, no special attention to this sad reality is paid in pro-LGTBI rights legislation.

Freedom of information in the network has also a different dimension for LGTBI individuals. Beyond the usage of the network for LGTBI activism and visibility, the network provides affordable access to prevention and health information and LGTBI-oriented goods and services. The GLSEN study, once more, remarks its special importance for the transgender subgroup. In spite of this, it is still usual to find that internet filters are not LGTBI friendly and classifies LGTBI information as porn and, therefore, makes it non-accesible. This biased classification has a big consequence in rural areas where Internet access relies in libraries or schools where a growing amount of educational resources are Internet based.

The internet platforms poses also policy making challenges to ensure LGTBI rights. To begin with the enrollment, some big platforms are respectful with gender identity as facebook (58 gender options) or google (free definition of gender), but this is not the case of all of them. Besides being respectful with your identity, colaborative economy providers may be legally forced or should self-regulate the conformity with LGTBI rights of prosumersThe recent outcry about transgender discrimination on AirBnB in The Guardian should be an example of naming and shaming.

In spite of the last years progress, we are just at the beginning of long and winding road towards to equality of LGBT individuals.  The global dimension of the Internet provides a unique platform for spreading the message of equality and denounce the cases of gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination. The network is just another battlefield. nevertheless there is still some efforts to do in order create the awareness of it. Even in the European Union supporting an LGTB friendly Internet it is not seen as one of the the ten key actions for improving LGTB rights.

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