DFF–SHARE litigation retreat: skill-building and co-learning by the Bay of Kotor

By Jonathan McCully, 23rd July 2018

Last week, we were delighted to host, in co-operation with SHARE Foundation, our first litigation retreat in the stunning surroundings of Perast, Montenegro. The retreat brought together thirteen individuals working on digital rights litigation across Europe to help sharpen and build upon their strategic litigation skills.

During our February strategy meeting, our network identified a need for more skill-building and skill-sharing around strategic litigation on digital rights. Between February and July, a number of follow-up calls and exchanges with members of our network helped determine in more detail what would be most useful, on the basis of which the programme for the retreat was created.

In the course of four days, participants worked on litigation and advocacy plans for a strategic case of their choice by means of group work, discussion, and sharing knowledge and skills from their own litigation experience. These cases dealt with a range of digital rights issues from net neutrality and online censorship, to surveillance and data retention. By the end of the week, participants left the retreat with a holistic litigation strategy and plan that could be used to help maximise the potential impact of their cases.

One participant said that the retreat gave them “a new way to structure how I strategise and plan with colleagues, and the format gave me a chance to meet exceptional people.” Another said that the retreat “has changed the whole way I think about strategic litigation – ‘strategy’ and proactively planning is as (if not more) important as just getting on with the litigation.”

The retreat took place alongside a workshop on the next steps for GDPRexplained, an information campaign about the EU General Data Protection Regulation that has been co-ordinated by the Panoptykon Foundation, EDRi, and Bits of Freedom. Participants at both events spent time together to find ways they could benefit from each other’s work.

DFF will co-host another litigation retreat for a new group of participants together with SHARE in Belgrade, Serbia this October. The programme will build on the feedback provided by the participants at last week’s retreat.

In 2019, DFF will support two thematically focussed litigation meetings, which we hope can facilitate information- and skill-sharing for litigation on specific digital rights issues. A call for applications for the first meeting, which would take place around May and focus on litigation around the GDPR, will be issued this fall. We also hope to continue supporting more general skill-sharing initiatives, including the creation of strategic litigation toolkits, so watch this space!

DFF is open for grant applications

By Nani Jansen Reventlow, 19th July 2018

It has been very exciting to see the great level of activity on digital rights in Europe over the past months. Not only was there a great victory to be celebrated in defeating the proposed EU Copyright Directive in its current form, the entry into force of the GDPR has given impetus to multiple efforts, including litigation and campaigns.

We look forward to reinforcing the excellent work being done and are pleased to announce that, as of 19 July, DFF is open for grant applications for strategic cases that seek to advance digital rights in Europe.

Concept notes can be submitted through our website here and the application process is explained here.

We especially welcome applications for projects that

  1. advance individuals’ ability to exercise their right to privacy;
  2. protect and promote the free flow of information online; or
  3. ensure accountability, transparency and the adherence to human rights standards in the use and design of technology.

We are also happy to receive applications for projects that fall outside these general thematic focus areas if they can contribute to advancing the respect for human rights in the digital sphere. You can find a full overview of our grants and criteria on the grantmaking pages on our website.

Our grantmaking process and criteria were developed in dialogue with the digital rights field. Twenty organisations and individuals from our network reviewed previous drafts and shared with us what thematic issues should be priorities for DFF to support. We are deeply grateful to Access Now, EDRi, GFF, Mozilla, BEUC, Digitale Gesellschaft, Liberties, HCLU, Polish Helsinki Committee, XNet, Stiftung Neue Verantwortung, Privacy First, MLDI, PILP, SHARE Foundation, epicenter.works, Liberty, Ot van Daalen, and DFF Board members Fieke Jansen and Nicole Nieman for their valuable input, feedback and recommendations. This dialogue, which started at the outset of our strategy process in 2017 and continued throughout our meetings around Europe and strategy meeting in February of this year, resulted in a grantmaking process we hope will meet the needs of litigators around the continent and support them in their important work.

For DFF, this is a continuing learning process and we welcome your feedback and input as we further develop our grantmaking. More than anything, we look forward to receiving your proposals for using strategic litigation in your digital right campaigns!

Fighting for digital rights in Europe: an update

By Nani Jansen Reventlow, 30th May 2018

A lot has happened in the field of digital rights over the past few months, including the Cambridge Analytica revelations and the GDPR entering into force. What are organisations in DFF’s network doing in the midst of this? And what is DFF working on?

There is some great work going on in our network. A number of actions have been taken in relation to the GDPR, which entered into force on 25 May. Amongst others, a number of organisations joined forces to put together a helpful explainer of rights and obligations under the new Directive, and some have filed multiple information requests with data brokers with a view to assessing their response and compliance with the new data protection regulations. The first court cases have been filed as well, to test how GDPR-proof some of the big social media companies are. On net neutrality, a Europe-wide mapping of net neutrality violations is underway. As is an assessment of voluntary content blocking by ISPs with a view of increasing transparency and accountability for such restrictions to free speech online.

On DFF’s side, we are following up on one of the needs identified at the February strategy meeting, namely the opportunity for skill building and -sharing around strategic litigation. The first litigation retreat, co-hosted by SHARE Foundation, will take place in July, where those interested in pursuing strategic cases can further sharpen their litigation skills and work with others to workshop potential cases. The programme will seek to leverage the knowledge and skills present within the field and allow participants to learn from each other’s experiences. By the end of the retreat, participants will have developed a case strategy for an issue of their choosing.

Alongside this, DFF has started testing its grantmaking with a soft launch, offering financial support for litigation and pre-litigation research for projects that can contribute to advancing the respect for human rights in the digital sphere in Europe. The grantmaking criteria and process were developed based on the valuable input from our network – a post on that process will follow at the formal launch.

Our grants will especially support strategic litigation that can: (1) advance individuals’ ability to exercise their rights to privacy and data protection; or (2) protect and promote the free flow of information online; or (3) ensure accountability, transparency and the adherence to human rights standards in the use and design of technology. A formal announcement will follow this summer. Any enquiries in the meantime can be addressed to grants[at]digitalfreedomfund.org. If you want to be notified when the call goes live, you can sign up for our newsletter here.

We’re inspired by the great work we’re seeing taking place around Europe  and look forward to supporting a number of litigation-related initiatives over the coming months and years.