Charting DFF’s First Chapters

Charting DFF’s First Chapters

By Nani Jansen Reventlow, 2nd July 2020

It’s here! We are extremely proud to launch DFF’s first ever annual report.

The long-awaited report charts the first leg of DFF’s journey as an organisation, from its founding in 2017 through 2019. Within its pages, you can read how an idea conceived by the digital rights field in 2016 has evolved into a fully-fledged fund that has supported 37 strategic cases across Europe – and helped spread the message of digital rights protection even further.

The report illustrates the development of DFF’s concept from its early stages until now. Threats to our digital rights stretch across a broad spectrum, so it was clear from the get-go that DFF needed to focus its ambitions.

That’s why, following close consultation with the European digital rights field, we formulated our three thematic focus areas: privacy and data protection; the free flow of information online; and accountability, transparency, and adherence to human rights standards in the use and design of technology online.

What DFF actually does also flows from this strategy process: DFF supports litigators to bring strategic cases on digital rights. But we also offer pre-litigation research grants. In parallel, we seek to leverage the vast knowledge of the European digital rights network by bringing people together, facilitating collaboration, and field building.

Our funding, research, and networking are all guided by a few core convictions. DFF believes firmly in the ‘strategic’ part of ‘strategic litigation’: in other words, we want to pave the way for cases with the potential to reach beyond the courtroom and to effect far-reaching social change.

We also never understate the importance of an intersectional approach

We also never understate the importance of an intersectional approach. We know that many digital rights issues disproportionately affect marginalised groups. We also know that many of the obstacles society faces in safeguarding human rights in the digital sphere hinge on power imbalances and structural inequality. That’s why doing our part to decolonise the field is an absolute priority for us.

In the time period covered by this new report, we’ve made 23 grants supporting 37 cases across 15 jurisdictions. Included among these is the Dutch SyRI case, which challenged state “predictive policing” and resulted in a landmark ruling earlier this year. We were delighted to be able to support the coalition of litigators who brought this case to a successful outcome, and its reverberations across the continent were clear-cut evidence of the impact such cases can have.

Apart from that, the cases we’ve supported tackled a host of today’s most urgent digital rights violations, from secret algorithms and mass surveillance to the “digital welfare state“.

We’ve made 23 grants supporting 37 cases across 15 jurisdictions

We’ve also been privileged to host several workshops through the years, where some of the brightest minds in digital rights have come together to collaborate on strategy and work on case development. DFF has facilitated conversations dedicated to competition law, GDPR, and artificial intelligence, as well as strategic litigation retreats and annual strategy meetings for field-level planning.

These first years have inspired confidence, and highlight how tangible progress can be achieved by working together as a field. With that in mind, we’re extremely excited to see what lies ahead.

Illustration by Cynthia Alonso