It is said that if women ruled the world, there would be no wars, or they would be much less violent and bloody than they are now under the rule of men, but what about the other world, the virtual world, which if women run the internet?
Will it be a more social, warm and loving network than it is now? Would we have seen less exploitation and more security? And would our experience as Internet users be completely different without responsible men?
Before answering these questions, we need to understand the current situation, and the almost complete control that men have over the international network in particular and the digital revolution in general, and then go back a little to the past to see the beginning of the internet and who was behind it, and how it existed.
The internet.. a male network
According to the British newspaper, The Guardian, the Internet is a male network, with men having 33.5% more access to the Internet than women, according to the Inclusive Internet Index, a survey of 86 countries representing 91% of the world s population, as reported by the newspaper.
And in some poor urban areas, men outnumber women online by two to one, the Web Foundation recently reported.
This is in terms of access and use, but in terms of study and specialization, according to the International Telecommunication Union, only 30% of technology professionals worldwide are women. According to a study prepared by Deloitte Global, only 23% of women work in the IT and computer sector in the United States of America.
Only 19% of women graduate in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, and women leave the tech industry at a rate 45% higher than men, according to the dataport platform.
In terms of employment, and if we take the world’s largest technology companies for example, the disparity seems quite clear; In Facebook, for example, we find that 77% of the employees are men, and the situation is not different in Apple, where the percentage of working women is only 30% according to the previous report.
A historic moment inaugurated by a college girl
It’s about the reality of the matter, and we go back a bit to the past, to the early beginnings of the Internet, specifically to the night of October 29, 1969, when 21-year-old student Charlie Klein was crouched down. in front of a computer screen in a windowless room with pistachio-colored walls at the University of California, Los Angeles, USA, as her professor, Leonard Kleinrock, supervisor of computer science at the university, stood next to her. Klein typed just one word, and moments later, on a screen some 350 miles (560 km) away at Stanford University, Klein’s one-word message “Lo” appeared.
It was an intermittent start, the system crashed before Klein could log in, but the process was finished and the message was gone, generating great joy on both sides of the two universities, as it was the first time that two computers communicated together by default, and all saw a historic moment in every sense of the Word; This is the moment of the birth of the Internet.
This new network was called “Arpanet” at the time, a communications system designed by the US Department of Defense to share information between computers on the network. After nearly 50 years, the Internet has matured from the experimental military childhood of only 4 computers to the civilian and commercial maturity that constitutes a vast global cyberspace.
Many women participated in the invention and development of the Internet
To create a technology that allows you to read these words on your screen today, thousands of people around the world participated in the process, many of them women, including Radia Perelman, the “Mother of the Internet”, an American engineer and mathematician who invented the algorithm behind the Internet. Known as the Spanning-Tree Protocol (STP), a key role in enabling the Internet as we know it today, Karen Spark Jones, the British computer scientist whose work underpins most search engines, and her compatriot Sophie Wilson who was instrumental in the design of existing microprocessors in more than half of the electronic devices in the world today.
“Women were instrumental in starting the computing and programming revolution,” said Mar Hicks, associate professor of history at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Also Stephanie Shirley, who founded a women’s software company in the 1960s, says women’s efforts are often not recognized, even though many are involved in the design of the Internet, and many believe it is mostly produced by men.
But what would the Internet look like if a diverse group—people of all colors, races, and orientations—helped build the online services and systems we use today? What if women and minorities were given more seats at the table, and had more say in its design?
This hypothetical question asked by Sandy Ong in her BBC report reveals how men have left indelible marks online; From the way it is built and the way it looks, to the means we use to express ourselves and connect with others. It is not a given that women and minorities at the top would necessarily have acted differently, but many believe they would have been given a real chance. The question is: What would these different decisions look like? Will we have a fairer and safer alternative internet for all?
What if women drove?
Charlotte Webb, who teaches online equality at the University of the Arts London and co-founded the nonprofit Feminist Internet, believes the online world could rely on a completely different business model if women and minorities were at the helm. Most of the online platforms are driven by one and only thing: collecting information about users, bombarding them with targeted ads, monetization and big money.
“Social media prioritizes advertising, revenue and the economy,” Webb says, and within this “patriarchal, white capitalist” trend, there may be some profit-driven female and minority CEOs because they’re forced to play within the rules of the game built by men.
But Webb thinks they might be more open to adopting different business models if given the real opportunity to operate outside the established rules of the game. For example, doing a lot of work that considers environmental sustainability, social justice, corporate responsibility, human rights and collective liberation.
“I think these models will emerge more if there are more diverse people in positions of power, with different perspectives, traditions and motivations,” she says.
In her report, Ong notes that with a diverse group responsible for creating content on the Internet, we can also see a multilingual scene on the Internet. Currently, there is criticism that the dominant on the network is English and a few other languages, while there are about 7,000 languages and dialects in the world, but only 10 of them represent almost 80% of all online content.
Online security tools will also look different, for example, social media users might be able to verify their accounts without giving away their phone numbers, as Facebook currently requires, which is the most popular platform in the world today.
In fact, women and minorities bear the brunt of online abuse, and overall, about 6 in 10 women around the world experience some form of online violence, as a 2020 survey of more than 14,000 young women from 22 countries found .
Another study of more than 1,600 “sexual revenge cases” revealed that 90% of the victims were women.
In 2020, a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that women in the United States are 3 times more likely than men to experience sexual harassment online, and 54% of blacks or Hispanics believe that race is a driver for their harassment was, compared to up to 17% of whites.
If women were responsible for content posted online, they might have prioritized security measures and might have done so from the start. For example, social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Reddit now ban revenge sexual material on their websites, but these platforms only did so in 2015, almost a decade after their launch, and after facing significant pressure from activists.
In addition to the security features, women and minorities may edit online content very differently if they are in control, as search engines and social media platforms rely on a combination of human intermediaries and artificial intelligence to report illegal, obscene, offensive or false material on their websites.
Carolina Ari, a researcher who studies online abuse at Northumbria University in the United Kingdom, claims in comments cited by Sandy Ong’s previous report, “The posting and editing of content replicates what parental authority does, which is to judge what women should and should not do, and that is Dan punishes them if they deviate from the prescribed path.”
She believes that if women had more control over the internet, it would be a completely different place visually, adding: “It’s clear in the eyes of those who made social media platforms that feminine means sex; it’s not true. Women and minorities are in charge. People may feel more free to express themselves without fear of censorship or retribution.”
In her 2018 book Algorithms of Oppression, Safiya Noble, assistant professor of information studies at the University of California, lamented that searches for black, Latina, Asian, or Hispanic girls often lead to pornographic websites.
Noble said in her book that internet searches can also be racist, citing examples where searches for words like “beautiful” and “professor” overwhelmingly returned images of white people, and how a Google search for “unprofessional hairstyles” led to led to the rise of images of black women, and it caused a stir in 2016.
There is no guarantee that women and minorities will behave differently than men if they rise to the top, because most Internet problems stem from the real world. “Social media is just a mirror of society,” says Lillian Edwards, Professor of Law, Innovation and Society at Newcastle University. “To address the issues women and minorities face online, we need to tackle the discrimination and violence they face offline, and that means providing access to education, health care, housing and a better life for people.” As societies become stronger, more educated and aware, people become less violent and less motivated to conflict.”
And to make big changes online, we need big changes in real life, and maybe only then, regardless of gender or dominant group, will the internet go back to what it originally meant when Klein first sent her two-letter message just like a vehicle for us to connect with each other.