Making Online Spaces Safer

About this learning activity

The goal of this activity is to go through the privacy options accounts and groups of the agreed-upon (i.e. the commonly used in the group) social media sites. For groups who have gone through the exercise Develop Your Internet Dream Place, this is an activity to make the dream places real including addressing challenges of current design and policy of online spaces being at odds with the dream space visions. For groups who already have online spaces and want to alter them to make them feel more safe, you can also use this activity.

If you want to get hands-on with online services, this activity provides guidance for analysizing the settings, policies and norms of spaces. It is not a step-by-step guide to adjusting settings as they change too frequently.

Learning objectives this activity responds to

  • come up with some strategies to create safe online spaces for themselves and their networks
  • gain an understanding of the privacy limitations of most social media

Who is this activity for?

This activity can be used with participants with different levels of experience with both online space and creating safe spaces. Participants will be asked to explore and set privacy settings in the tools they are using.

Time required

This activity will require about 3 hours.

Resources needed for this activity


(1) Map your space

Developing new spaces: If you have done Develop Your Internet Dream Place, you can use the work from that exercise as your map.

Redesigning existing spaces: If your group would rather redesign an existing online space, identify a space that the group already participates in or ask the participants to form groups based on spaces they participate in and facilitate the group(s) to answer the questions from Develop Your Internet Dream Place, about these existing spaces:

  • what is it called?
  • why is this space significant?
  • who is it for? who is it not for? how can you make sure?
  • what kinds of things do people do in this space?
  • what are the rules in that place?
  • who can join? who cannot join?
  • what will the space look like?
  • how will people find each other in that place?
  • what topics can people talk about in that place? what can they not?
  • who has responsibility for managing the space?

Have the groups draw out this space as creatively as possible, and get them to prepare a creative presentation for the rest of the group.

(2) Choosing spaces: Spaces that work and Assessing safety

If you have done Input + Activity: Online Safety "Rules", you may have already had a conversation about choosing spaces and assessing risks of online communications.

Choosing Spaces for functionality
How do you choose platforms and assess risks on that platform to yourselves? Choose spaces that help us reach our communication goals and try to participate in these spaces in ways that do not expose us to risks we do not wish to take.

Look at the map you have made. Can you identify a platform already that will allow you to create the space you have mapped? Which of the components of your space will be easy to create? Which will be difficult? Are there alternative spaces where pieces will be easier or harder?

Choosing Spaces strategically
Does the space you chose match your strategy? Is this a good space for: organising, mobilising, for announcements/influencing discourse.

Facilitator: Introduce how these different activities bring with them different levels of risk.

Suggested questions to ask

  • What are some risks with different types of communication?
  • Who are you communicating with in these activities?
  • Who are you not communicating with?
  • What are the consequences if someone you do not intend your message for accesses it?
  • How public can the audience be?
  • What risks might people face if they are known as message creators or recipients in this communication?

This discussion leads into the next discussion section looking at risks people are most concerned with.

Note to facilitator: This section may be very quick, with everyone agreeing that they need to be on a single platform right now, for instance, F-book. You may, however, get to talk about a variety of tools and platforms.

Discussion OR Input: Assessing dimensions of safety and the internet: What are the current issues?
Ask the group: What safety risks are you concerned about in online spaces? Facilitate this discussion to include concerns about actions that individuals can take in these spaces as well as actions taken by the software companies who own the spaces.

If you have already done Input + Activity: Online Safety "Rules", you may reference that discussion and abbreviate this section.

Otherwise, facilitate discussion about safety risks in online spaces. You can either do this as a lecture or ask your participants to share risks to safety in the spaces they participate in online.

Discussion: Ask participants what safety concerns they have in online spaces. Are there any specific incidents or risks people are concerned about and want to address in their Dream Space or redesigned space?

Input: We suggest familiarizing yourself with 2-3 case studies and sharing them here. To share these with the least amount of time, present them as a lecture. If you have more time, or want to facilitate deeper conversation and engagement with the issues, find some media like articles, short videos, interviews, regarding a case and share them with the group. Ask group members to discuss them together in pairs or small groups.

  • real name policies and their implications for organising and expression online
  • the myth that to be online is to be anonymous and therefore safe — laws and policies that don´t allow for this
  • women´s experience of the internet — harassment, attacks, etc
  • the value of the internet; why do people stay in online space; how is it of value to us and our community?

Facilitator: ask participants to consider why the platforms we are on are not safer by design.

(3) Make a Plan: Address the risks you are willing to take to make your online spaces safer

Using the Dream Spaces or Redesigned Spaces as examples, make a plan for implementing this space online.


  • Privacy settings on social media — is it enough?

Personal Considerations

Meta + Data

Consideration Platform or Space How will you address this
Who can see what f-book Review my privacy settings; consider content that I post, respond to, like, and the default privacy settings on different types of content; reduce the number people I'm linked to; prohibit tagging
Do you know everyone you're linked to f-book review my connections; remove connections to people I do not know;
Do you want to use your real name; anonymity and how hard it is f-book use a pseudonym; prevent others from naming you with your real name
Do you want to share your location f-book No, I do not want to automatically share my location; turn off location services; limit photo posts showing my location
Consideration Platform or Space How will you address this
Ensuring that I am logging out f-book do not save password in browser; review setting on f-book for automatic logout
2-factor on accounts and devices f-book set up 2-factor to be more certain that only I am logging in
Shared accounts f-book review who has access to shared accounts; review password policies on these accounts
Consideration Platform or Space How will you address this
Device-level safety f-book or any app do not automatically log in to any apps or through browsers
Do I want notifications to show on my devices f-book or any app turn off audio and visual notifications

Group Administration

If you are working with a group to implement a space online, use the following table of questions and work through the answers, finding the appropriate settings on the platform you are using to implement the group's preferences.

Example design/implementation table:
Link to Group or Personal Page What are you doing to implement this?
Who can see this space? anyone on the internet our group is public on facebook and searchable on the web
Who is this space for? APC members, community and potential APC members we invite APC staff and network members to join, mention them in posts, invite them to events posted through this page
Who is it not for? APC members, community and potential APC members closed / public - we limit who can post, but make the page findable on facebook and through web searches
What kinds of things do people do in this space? notifications about APC work and links to APC network content published elsewhere
Who can create content in this space? What kind of content? staff and members cell content
How do you want to communicate the rules of the space? on our group's about page we will write our rules based on this chart of questions and answers and post it on our about page

Additional resources

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