Digital Debates

The Online Debate from a Civil Society Perspective

Digital Debate 4: How Safe are Safe Digital Spaces?

A number of CSO have created online spaces in order to provide an environment that encourages people to share experiences, opinions, and views without fear or threat of political, economic or personal harm. Such platforms and apps allow the organizations to reach out and break down barriers, access individuals that might otherwise be out of reach. Hence, safe digital spaces are used to promote rights, in particular that of minority groups, children and youth, or women and girls. They allow for peer networks, trainings, and support. These platforms and apps work in both directions and enable individuals to reach out if facing problems, such as domestic violence and reproductive health issues. They help to overcome loneliness and isolation. In other cases, due to ongoing violence, physicians, mental health professionals, and social workers leave areas of conflict. In such crisis situations, projects via the Internet are used for therapies, such as the psychological online treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety.

Evidence would indicate that new technologies can be used to provide support, including humanitarian aid in the form of e-mental health services, even in areas that are remote, difficult to access, and sometimes unsafe for the service providers. But what about the recipients: How safe are such safe digital spaces for them? How can CSOs assess risks for people and areas outside their reach?

Hosted by Wolfgang Jamann, the Centre’s Executive Director, the 4th Digital Debate discussed the pros and cons, the opportunities and risks of working online. Civil society and medical practitioners from RNW Media, World YWCA and Paradigm Initiative showcased a wide range of their experiences in this regard.

3 June 2021, 16:00 hrs. CEST 


Digital Debates: Event Series

Every month, this event series will provide inspiring discussions for the civil society sector based on the constant change that digitalisation brings to our societies. Each debate will be a call to action for CSOs to take a more active role in shaping our digital future.

Digital Debate Panellists

  • Dr. Suchi Gaur
  • Director of Global Engagement and Impact at World YWCA
  • Bio
  • Trésor Kalonji
  • Content Editor and Moderator at Habari RDC, a RNW Media project
  • Bio

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Further Reading

Ayeta: Digital Rights Toolkit

Developed by Paradigm Initiative (PIN) with the support of Stanford Digital Society Lab and the Kingdom of Netherlands, amongst other partners, the toolkit’s overarching aim is to address the growing need to safeguard digital rights defenders, journalists, whistle blowers, and others working with sensitive information in the global South.


Infomedic Toolkit for Fighting Disinformation on Covid-19

In collaboration with the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Uzbekistan and the Public Foundation for Support and Development of National Mass Media of Uzbekistan, RNTC curated this infodemic toolkit in order to help journalists successfully report on the COVID-19 crisis. The project was brought about due to the rise in dis-, mis-, and malinformation during the crisis, and aims to provide anyone with the tools to improve one's understanding on this topic.


YouTube: World YWCA Virtual Safe Spaces

A World YWCA virtual safe space provides an environment online and/or offline that encourages all people present to share experiences, opinions, and views without fear or threat of political, economic or personal harm. Discover this explanatory video.


Safe spaces in online places: social media and LGBTQ youth

This study responds to a need for research in a fast-growing and significant area of study, that of exploring, understanding and documenting the numerous ways that multiply marginalized LGBTQ youth use social media as part of their everyday experiences in an attempt to safely navigate their lives through learning, participating, engaging, communicating and constructing identities in digital spaces. The research question examined whether digital spaces, such as Facebook, provide safe spaces for multiply minoritized LGBTQ youth to express and explore issues of sexuality and gender.


Safe digital spaces, a dialogue on countering cyberviolence

On 4 November 2020, during the Internet Governance Forum 2020, UN Women, The World Wide Web Foundation, and IT for Change co-organized a round table discussion with tech companies and civil society organisations. It provided a space for dialogue for shared reflection between tech companies and civil society organizations on creating a multi-stakeholder strategy to counter online gender-based violence (OGBV), accounting for its diverse forms and manifestations across contexts.


UNICEF GBViE Podcast Episode: Creating Virtual Safe Spaces for women and girls

In GBV programming, safe spaces for women and girls have been established as a key approach of reaching adolescent girls and providing them with access to Sexual and Reproductive Health (SHR) information, links to services, skill-building, peer connection, and support. Yet, access to physical safe spaces is often limited for adolescent girls because of security concerns, gender norms, and domestic responsibilities. UNICEF has been developing a platform to act as a virtual safe space for adolescent girls to access gender-based violence information.


Free Speech and Safe Spaces: How Moderation Policies Shape Online Discussion Spaces

How do moderation policies affect online discussion? This article analyses nearly a quarter of a million anonymous comments over a 14-month period from two online Reddit forums matched in topic and size, but with differing moderation policies of “safe space” and “free speech.” The results suggest that differences in moderation policies may affect self-censorship and language use in online space, implicating moderation policies as key sites of inquiry for scholars of democratic discussion.


Using moderation to build communities

RNW's moderation strategies are based on choices about how they want their online communities to interact and encouraging positive behaviours that result in safe, inclusive spaces where young people can speak freely. This blog post dives deeper this topic.


YouTube: Habari RDC - community of Congolese bloggers

Habari RDC is a RNW Media project in the DRC which promotes civic and political awareness. Acting as a ‘voice’ for Congolese youth, it encourages freedom of speech on a variety of topics, even the most sensitive ones. Habari RDC is an independent platform with all of its content (articles, videos, info graphs, photographs) produced by young bloggers and change makers from all across the country. As per its slogan, the platform strives to offer its community a “diversity of opinions”!