For the ongoing series, Code Word, we’re exploring if — and how — technology can protect individuals against sexual assault and harassment, and how it can help and support survivors.
When many think of blockchain, they think of cryptocurrencies. But as one of the most exciting new fields of emerging technology, there’s an incredibly wide array of use cases for blockchain — as well as many empty promises and scams. When it comes to combating the age old problem of how to prevent sexual assault, it’s clear we need to look for new ways to do so. Blockchain’s ability to store and record information and anonymize records holds promising potential to help survivors of sexual crime.
Introducing the new app, Smashboard, an India-based alternative social media network with specific features to challenge rape culture and create an all-inclusive, feminist online community for survivors of sexual assault and allies.
The app, which is available to download in India on both Android and iOS devices, harnesses the Ethereum blockchain to privatize and encrypt users’ messaging to create a safer online space through complete pseudo-anonymization. The app’s features include an indelible time-stamped journal for survivors to record events of their sexual assault, which can, they say, eventually be used as evidence in court proceedings.
Adding to this, the non-profit app offers an extensive list of mental health and legal practitioners resources, a forum for users to seek and offer help within the community, and a newsfeed showing articles from feminist publications with an option to leave anonymous tips for journalists if they wish to share their story of sexual assault.
All users can remain anonymous when using the app, which allegedly doesn’t harvest data or use location-tracking software.
While Smashboard uses blockchain to protect the identity of its users, it has plans to launch its own coin. However, the use of cryptocurrency is currently banned in India. Speaking to Quartz, Noopur Tiwari, the founder of the app, said she believes that if crypto was legalized and properly regulated, Smashboard could launch a coin called “SMASH” to fund feminist campaigns, digital tools, and grassroots initiatives from investors who are ideologically aligned with the cause.
This app connects survivors and allies alike through its app, however right now it’s only available in English, Spanish, and French but has plans to expand its language options.
“SMASH coin will run on Ethereum as well. Blockchain is hailed as the technology that will, in the near future, radically transform the way things are done online. It is indeed potentially disruptive because it is essentially a medium for decentralization,” Tiwari told TNW. “The breakdown of patriarchal institutions and structures as envisioned by feminists is also disruptive. Hence, blockchain appeals to feminism —especially when the technology is extended to socio political-arenas. By being amongst the early majority (since blockchain is no longer “new”), women can mould and use the technology for their common purpose of dismantling patriarchy.”
Technology is black and white, but the world of humans is not. We can never solely rely on technology to protect us, because technology can never be a replacement for a healthy sexual culture, where consent is respected and discussed openly. However, Smashboard offers hope in creating a safe online space for survivors at a time when the #MeToo movement in India is causing waves.