Digital Rights for All: harmed communities should be front and centre

Earlier this month, Digital Freedom Fund kicked off a series of online workshops of the ‘Digital Rights for All’ programme. In this post, Laurence Meyer details the reasons for this initiative with the fundamental aim of addressing why individuals and communities most affected by the harms of technologies are not centred in the advocacy, policy, and strategic litigation work on digital rights in Europe, and how to tackle challenges around funding, sustainable collaborations and language barriers.

The piece underscores the performative, co-optive and objectifying use of marginalised and racialised individuals and communities in the discussions (and solutions) around harmful technologies. This is certainly not only a private tech sector issue, it can also be witnessed within advocacy, policymaking, academia and non-profit organisations. For example, in the many #BrusselsSoWhite conversations, and specifically in EU tech policy.

Rather than seeing these people’s experiences, expertise and knowledge as legitimate, and seeing them as equals, they are often placed either in the periphery, or as objects to be extracted from. These harmed communities are not only largely excluded from technology design and development, but also by well-intentioned actors that claim to help. Meyer thinks that these communities – most impacted by the harms of technologies – should be centered to set the agenda and determine how to address and meaningful engage with the issues caused by technologies. James Baldwin reminds us that those who are harmed or neglected by systems, especially members of racially or economically subordinated groups, can bring us knowledge that is missing, knowledge that is based on wisdom and experience.

See: Nothing About Us, Without Us: Introducing Digital Rights for All at Digital Freedom Fund.

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