Three horizons: connecting the digital rights field on different levels

By Nani Jansen Reventlow, 26th September 2018

We are excited to be hosting the “Future-proofing Our Digital Rights” workshop in Berlin later this week. The event will bring together 18 individuals from different backgrounds to jointly look ahead at the opportunities, threats or challenges related to digital rights we will have to prepare ourselves for in the future.

Switching our focus from the digital rights battles being fought today, during the workshop we will look ahead and try to map the issues we may see further down the horizon, and start identifying how we can prepare ourselves to respond to these issues when they do arise. In this context, we will not be singularly looking at how we will respond to future issues through litigation. Instead, we expect the workshop to inform how the digital rights field develops their strategy on advocacy or campaigning on the identified future issues more broadly. Of course, this can include litigation, but reflections will not be limited to this activity. This also in light of what strategic litigation entails: embedding litigation in a broader campaign for social change.

How do we ensure people have the knowledge and understanding required to participate in the debates on the (mis)use of algorithms?

What would a Universal Declaration of Digital Rights look like?

How do we protect the rights of vulnerable groups, such as children, in the digital context?

This future-looking event, which has a long-term horizon, complements the two other types of events DFF supports to facilitate increased connectivity and collaboration across the digital rights field.

Focused on the short-term horizon are the litigation retreats, the first of which was co-hosted by DFF and SHARE Foundation in July 2018 and the second of which will take place in October this year. These events bring together individuals working on digital rights litigation across Europe to help sharpen and build upon their strategic litigation skills.

DFF’s strategy meetings can be placed on the mid-term part of the horizon. The first meeting took place in February of this year, exactly two years after a previous gathering of digital rights experts, convened by Open Society Foundations, gave rise to the founding of DFF. In the course of two days, over 30 digital rights experts, activists and litigators came together in Berlin and brought into focus work done to advance digital rights in Europe and mapped next steps and new strategies for amplifying those efforts. Upon conclusion of the meeting, a number of initiatives were taken forward by the meeting participants, one of which resulted in the aforementioned litigation retreats.

We will be reporting on the outcome of the workshop over the coming weeks and look forward to hearing your thoughts on the future of digital rights. The results of the Future-proofing Our Digital Rights workshop will feed into the next strategy meeting, which will take place in February 2019. Alongside the workshop, partners are working with us to research what potential threats or challenges to digital rights are on the horizon. This research has helped inform our thinking for the design of the two-day workshop and the outputs from the workshop will inform our ongoing research on this topic. Finally, a set of short, blog post-style essays on a number of the key issues identified will be published in the course of November and December of this year, inviting feedback.

If you have thoughts on future digital rights issues we should be considering: get in touch to let us know!