A tale of three cities: practitioners from London, Berlin and Amsterdam share their views on digital rights litigation in Europe

By Nani Jansen Reventlow, 9th November 2017

This summer, we started asking digital rights litigators and activists in Europe what they were working on and how DFF could support it.

What are the most pressing issues in digital rights and which of them can potentially be addressed through litigation? What threats and opportunities should we anticipate in the future when it comes to digital rights and how can we address them? What can DFF do to make good things happen for digital rights in Europe?

The individual conversations we had over the past months showed a committed and passionate field of organisations and individuals who – while differing in approach and emphasis of their work – shared a deep dedication to advancing digital rights in Europe, be it in the area of privacy, copyright, data protection, or other. There also was a clear wish to increase collaboration and information sharing across the field.

Last week, we visited London, Berlin and Amsterdam, where we asked local activists to share their views with us over a beverage. This yielded further insights in how we might all work together, on which issues, and how DFF could facilitate that.

In London, the conversation went deep into the issue of government surveillance and into the GDPR; what might the new EU Directive mean and what could possible strategies for both advocacy and litigation look like?

In Berlin, we discussed what could be considered a “good” or a “bad” court case and how litigation tied in with other efforts such as public campaigning and targeted lobbying. The Amsterdam conversation focused on the different funding models that would be helpful to the community, how to connect litigation with academia, and ways to encourage pro bono support from commercial law firms.

Numerous good ideas were floated and we look forward to further exploring with you what DFF’s priorities should be in the short, median and longer term. We will continue engaging with the digital rights community over the coming months, but please don’t wait for us to ask questions to share your views – get in touch with us.

Introducing the Digital Freedom Fund

By Nani Jansen Reventlow, 1st October 2017

I am excited to introduce the Digital Freedom Fund. DFF will seek to support strategic litigation on digital rights in Europe through two main activities: providing financial support for strategic court cases and facilitating increased collaboration between those working to advance digital rights. The Fund will also assist litigators in finding pro bono legal support to further strengthen their litigation work. DFF will not itself litigate or engage in lobbying, rather it will seek to leverage the strong work digital rights organisations in Europe are already doing.

Litigation can be a crucial lever to achieve change. Legislation and regulations that negatively affect people’s ability to exercise their digital rights are introduced on an ongoing basis, but Europe has a constitutional framework that can be used to challenge these laws. The European Convention on Human Rights and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, as well as national constitutions, guarantee the rights to privacy, freedom of expression and assembly; rights that apply in the digital context just as they do offline.

Some important legal victories illustrate the potential of litigation, such as the invalidation of the Safe Harbour agreement and Data Retention Directive by the Court of Justice of the European Union. At the national level, the UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal handed down a powerful ruling on surveillance, and administrative complaints have forced tech giants like Apple to amend their consumer terms.

These examples bode well for the expected impact of a concerted effort in protecting digital rights in Europe through litigation. The Digital Freedom Fund is looking forward to working with the many organisations doing fantastic work in this area, as well as those operating in the policy field, to help increase the impact of their work.

In the coming months, DFF will engage in a consultative dialogue process with those working in the digital rights field to learn what their priorities are and how the Fund can best help pursue them. This will help determine DFF’s funding priorities and overall strategy going forward.

We would love to hear your views and welcome your input via info@digitalfreedomfund.org.

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