In August 2021, comun.al began its public activities sustained by ten years of building trust with different people involved in the defense of human rights in Mexico and Latin America. With the support of the Mozilla Foundation and the Ford Foundation through the Technology and Society program, we developed a proposal for sharing tools and resources for self-taught and decentralized learning -that goes beyond the “traditional” digital security or holistic security approaches- always aware of the different challenges presented by the Mexican context and its digital divide. Between 2020 and 2022 we have had the opportunity to work directly with activists from different parts of Mexico to consolidate new strategies seeking to nurture the defense of human rights in our country and, in turn, share these experiences and learnings with more initiatives in Latin America and the world.
Technology, Justice and Power: Digital Violence by the State in Mexico
The first public event we held was this series of conversations during August 2021, with two weekly conversations. For the realization of these conversations we allied with the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center, with whom we invited: the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center of La Montaña (Guerrero, MX), the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center (Mexico City, MX), Cultivando Género A.C. (Aguascalientes, MX), Consorcio Oaxaca (Oaxaca, MX), and Consorcio Oaxaca (Oaxaca, MX). (Aguascalientes, MX), Consorcio Oaxaca (Oaxaca, MX), Colectivo Disonancia (Chile), Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales (Mexico City, MX) and computer activist Javier Smaldone (Argentina).
On average (between the different transmission platforms), each of the chapters of this series of conversations – which addressed the relationship between the defense of human rights and the abuse of State power through technologies – had an audience of 600 people and around 100 reproductions within a week of its live transmission.
This series is available in Spanish on our website (https://comun.al) and on our Internet Archive channel. In the near future, in the future we want to enable subtitles in Spanish, Portuguese and English.
3r0-T1Cs: Virtual conference on digital resilience for sex workers and creators of erotic content
This was the first closed long-term digital resilience conference that we conducted as comun.al. For these workshops, which took place during September 2021, we collaborated with sex workers who are also activists; in order to nurture their proposals with the possibilities of developing critical digital skills around censorship and stigmatization of sex work on the internet.
In these closed spaces we talked about the stigmatization of sex work in Mexico, the persecution of sex workers through technologies, doxxing, shadowbanning, banking restrictions and harm reduction in the face of the criminalization of sex work (both online and offline).
As a result of this first edition, we have consolidated greater interest and trust with more communities of activists who defend the rights of sex workers and we are consolidating a new curriculum – accompanied by texts and guides in Spanish – derived from the learnings of this edition, nourished with the feedback of those who join this alliance.
Launching of the book “Violencia digital en México: El Estado vs. La sociedad civil” (Digital Violence in Mexico: The State vs. Civil Society)
At the end of October, together with the independent publishing house Malpaís Ediciones, we published Violencia digital en México: El Estado vs. La sociedad civil. This book is a vehicle of memory that recovers the experiences and reflections of activists who have participated in different initiatives for the defense of human rights in digital environments from Mexico. In this publication, the stories of women, gender dissidents and collectives converge to weave a collective memory that will support the movements and proposals to come.
The first edition in Spanish had 300 printed copies, some of which have been donated to schools, collectives, associations and others have served as fundraising vehicles to sustain the servers that host the free services we offer. In addition, this book was created under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license (CC BY 4.0) and is available for free digital download on our website (https://comun.al).
At the beginning of 2022, the first English edition was published with 100 printed copies and the release of its digital version under the same license and in the English section of our website (comun.al/en). By the end of 2022 we would like to have a digital edition in Portuguese.
Human rights and technologies in Mexico
In November, during the Tenochtitlán Independent Book Fair, we participated in our first public event as comun.al. In addition to presenting the book Violencia digital en México: El Estado vs. La sociedad civil, we facilitated a workshop in Ecatepec (State of Mexico, Mexico) on human rights and their relationship with technologies in Mexico accompanied by a “pocket-sized” fanzine that we created to put together and share with the attendees.
Ecatepec has been one of the regions most affected by precariousness, the economic crisis and the growing waves of violence in the peripheries of Mexico City. Despite its proximity to the City, due to insecurity, this territory has been excluded from programs, initiatives and proposals that seek to generate actions to reduce the digital divide that go beyond welfare and support people in the construction of their autonomy.
As a result of this participation we found possibilities to build alliances with local initiatives and community centers in Ecatepec and other municipalities in the State of Mexico to build more workshops and digital resilience laboratories in the near future.
Digital Resilience: Learning by doing, the first steps of comun.al
For the celebration of the hybrid edition of the HackMitin, in December 2021, on behalf of comun.al we contributed by facilitating our Jitsi instance (https://llamada.comun.al) that, besides being hosted on an end-to-end encrypted server to promote privacy, is free and open for anyone to use. Of the 34 nodes -that took place during December 17, 18 and 19- 10 of them were transmitted or carried out through rooms in comun.al’s instance.
In addition to this, we presented the findings, learnings and proposals that we have had in our first months of life as a civil initiative, and shared with the hacktivism community in Mexico and Latin America the steps we want to develop in the coming years to continue nurturing our environment of resistance.
From our session we received interest from members of graphic design and audiovisual production collectives to join the development of content for the PeerTube instance of comun.al and the production of more printed materials for workshops and laboratories of digital resilience that we want to implement in physical spaces (with our allied initiatives in Monterrey, Michoacán, Guerrero, Guanajuato, Morelos, State of Mexico, Mexico City, Aguascalientes, Puebla, Tabasco, Oaxaca and Chiapas) as soon as the health contingency allows us to.