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European Policy, Free Expression, Privacy & Data

EU Tech Policy Brief: October 2021 Recap

This is the October 2021 recap issue of the Centre for Democracy & Technology Europe‘s monthly Tech Policy Brief. It highlights some of the most pressing technology and internet policy issues under debate in Europe, the U.S., and internationally, and gives CDT’s perspective on them. Our aim is to help shape policies that advance our rights in a digital world. Please do not hesitate to contact our team in Brussels: Iverna McGowan, Asha Allen, and Ophélie Stockhem.

Ophélie Stockhem Joins CDT Europe as Advocacy & Communications Assistant

The Centre for Democracy & Technology Europe (CDT) is delighted to welcome Ophélie Stockhem as Advocacy & Communications Assistant. Ophélie comes to CDT with a strong interest in the impact of technologies on human rights and democracy, as well as experience at the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in NGOs working in the field of women’s rights, access to justice, and the protection of human rights defenders. After completing a Master’s degree in International Law from Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), she graduated in 2020 from the Global Campus of Human Rights with a Master’s Degree in Human Rights and Democratisation and wrote her thesis on the nexus between artificial intelligence and human trafficking. Ophélie will support CDT’s work on the EU Digital Services Act and monitor the EU AI Act and CAHAI legislative and policy processes.

CDT Europe Joins Panel Discussion at the “Future of the Digital World” Online Summit

In late September, a cross-party coalition of Members of the European Parliament and partner civil society organisations co-organised the first EU-U.S. Summit on the “Future of the Digital World.” The online event brought together stakeholders to debate on the future of the internet, amidst ongoing efforts by the EU and U.S. to draft globally significant legislation that will review the rules governing digital services. 

Asha Allen, CDT Europe’s Advocacy Director for Europe, represented CDT on a panel focused on content moderation, the protection of minors, and marginalised groups. She spoke to the need to more meaningfully include marginalised groups by adopting an intersectional approach to policymaking processes, and to continue to champion the eradication of systemic discrimination that often informs online experiences.  

Allen emphasised the global significance of the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA), and the need for the regulation to clearly balance rights in a way that prevents historically marginalised groups from experiencing further discrimination online. In the context of the discussion on online advertising and recommendation systems, she highlighted the need for more transparency and user control, and the need to phase out advertising based on pervasive tracking.

She reiterated that EU decision-makers should adopt a more comprehensive, human-rights based approach in the DSA, so as to ensure that the protection of fundamental rights is at the very heart of the regulation.

CDT Awarded Ford Foundation Social Bond Grant in Recognition of Work on Technology & Inequality

The Center for Democracy & Technology, our U.S. partner organisation, has been awarded a $2.45 million grant by the Ford Foundation, an independent, nonprofit grant-making organisation on the front lines of social change worldwide. This grant is part of Ford’s Social Bond initiative to “stabilise & strengthen organisations we believe have what it takes to lead us through recovery to build a more just, equitable world,” in recognition of CDT’s work championing policies that empower people to use technology for good while protecting against invasive, discriminatory, and exploitative uses. 

CEO Alexandra Givens highlighted that this grant will allow CDT to advance its work on algorithmic discrimination, the impact of surveillance technologies on marginalised communities, and the experiences of underrepresented voices participating in online civic space. The grant will also support CDT’s work on centering disability perspectives in technology policy.

According to the Ford Foundation, “the Social Bond is the first of its kind by a foundation… and is meant to ensure nonprofits can carry on their important work to serve the world’s most vulnerable communities.”

CDT Europe Joins Civil Society in Urging JURI Committee to Address Negative Impact of Proposed Measures on the Right to Freedom of Expression & Opinion

CDT Europe joined civil society organisations in a joint letter to the members of the Committee on Legal Affairs of the European Parliament, in advance of its vote on the EU Digital Services Act (DSA).

In the letter, we called on committee members to focus on protecting rule of law and human rights safeguards for users’ speech in their recommendations. We warned against several currently tabled amendments that would interfere with the fundamental rights of users, including  imposing unduly strict timeframes for content removal, and the creation of a framework in which law enforcement agencies can become trusted flaggers, which would effectively assure their prioritised notices become tantamount to governmental orders for removal.

Civil society called for members to consider their global leadership role and centre the protection of fundamental rights for all within the DSA, reminding the foundational importance of upholding intermediary liability exemptions and prohibiting general monitoring to support the rights of freedom of expression, association, and access to information.

CDT Europe Director Addresses Digital Kick-Off Session of Exit Platforms European Strategy for a Digital Democracy

On Thursday, 14 October, Exit Platforms European Strategy for a Digital Democracy kicked off a project that aims to conceptualize an alternative for the current platform-dominated digital space through a series of digital workshops. This session specifically aimed to highlight the role of the EU in supporting an European alternative and a true common digital space based on public value.

CDT Europe Director Iverna McGowan spoke about disinformation and how it impacts marginalised groups and women disproportionately. She highlighted lawmakers’ tendency to focus on the illegality of speech while overlooking other possible illegalities, such as systemic data protection violations. She spoke of the need to think about how human rights offline apply online, without outsourcing core security, enforcement, and standard-setting work to private actors.  

CDT Joins DSA Human Rights Alliance in Letter Urging European Parliament for Transparency, Accountability, and Human Rights-Centered Lawmaking

CDT Europe co-signed a statement of the Digital Services Act Human Rights Alliance, an alliance of 12 civil society organisations from around the globe, in support of their quest for transparency, accountability, and human rights-centered amendments to the draft regulation for the Digital Services Act (DSA).

In the statement, organisations called on the EU, as a global trendsetter in internet legislation with the ability to set a positive global example in lawmaking, to embrace a human rights framework within the DSA. By doing so, it can address the most pressing challenges of the internet ecosystem while ensuring the protection of vulnerable groups or marginalized communities both within the EU and around the world.