Digital Freedom Fund – Summer 2023 update on new grants

Digital Freedom Fund – Summer 2023 update on new grants

By Thomas Vink, 12th September 2023

In June we decided on our latest group of grant recipients, approving eleven grants worth over EUR 400,000 supporting litigation to advance digital rights in Europe. Going forward we aim to put out a summary like this after each new round of grants are approved in the spirit of improving transparency.

The eleven latest grants were selected from a total of 34 applications, our most popular call for applications yet. The latest grants cover litigation activities in Azerbaijan, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and one regional project.

Topic-wise, three grants support pre-litigation research to prepare for litigation on digital surveillance, including litigation by Border Violence Monitoring Network to improve safeguards around surveillance at asylum seeker processing centres in Samos, Greece; ending online monitoring by police and municipalities; and controlling the use of spyware.

Another three grants relate to online hate speech and misinformation, including litigation by Polish organisation, Campaign Against Homophobia to increase the level of protection from hate speech against the queer community, pre-litigation research to challenge online misinformation and data violations by “crisis pregnancy centres”, and litigation seeking redress for marginalised communities that have suffered as a result of hate speech facilitated by Facebook.

One grant supports pre-litigation research to challenge a discriminatory algorithm used for fraud risk assessment and another grant supports legal action to get prisoners access to the internet.

Finally, three grants relate to data protection and privacy, including preparation by Homo Digitalis for litigation to align national data retention laws in Greece with international human rights standards, litigation by Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte pushing for improvements to a register for foreigners in Germany which is particularly discriminatory towards asylum seekers, and multi-jurisdictional litigation by noyb seeking accountability from Meta for illegal use of personal data.

Over the coming weeks and months as we get approval or the projects progress to the point where they can be publicised, we’ll upload more detailed case studies about each of the new grants on our website. In the meantime, you can already see the roughly 50 other case studies that are already up, covering both ongoing and completed litigation activities going back as far as 2018.

Looking ahead

We’ve just closed our second call for applications for the year, which was again popular with 32 applications received. The assessment process will be completed by October, when we will aim to announce the approval of another 8-12 new grants.

We’ll open another call for applications in November, which will run until February 2024. Check out the resources on our website, including our application guides and litigation toolkit, to start thinking about or preparing your application already.

What else is changing?

Back in June we published an update about plans to further transform our grantmaking. We’re in the process of opening up a survey and a round of calls to provide feedback and suggestions on these plans and which recommendations we should take forward.

In the meantime, we’re continuing to make incremental changes and improvements in our grantmaking, including reducing the number of questions for the latest call for applications, and adding more flexibility into our grantee payments and reporting.

We’re also planning to expand the scope of our litigation track support grants to include post-litigation activities, and aim for this to be possible in our next application process that starts in November. The plan is that all new grant applicants will be able to include post-litigation costs in their grant requests, and all DFF grantees, including current grantees, can request additional funds for post-litigation work once the litigation is over. Post-litigation activities include, for example, communications work to promote the outcomes of litigation, meetings to share lessons learned, and advocacy or other legal action to ensure a litigation decision is implemented or enforced. Funding support to cover these kinds of activities has been requested regularly and we are excited to be able to respond to this need.