In this interview with OneWorld, Nani Jansen Reventlow reflects on the harmful uses of technology, perpetuated by private and public actors. Ranging from the Dutch child benefits scandal, to the use of proctoring in education and to ‘super SyRI’ in public services.
Jansen Reventlow reflects on her experience in the digital rights field, since setting up Digital Freedom Fund in 2017. She explain how for a long time the field has mostly focused on the issues of privacy, data protection, and freedom of expression. Whilst important, this tends to ignore or downplay socio-economic issues and rights. This has partly been so because the entire technology sector has largely been dominated by white, cisgender, middle-class, able-bodied men. Her positionality as a non-white woman working in the field has been particularly challenging when fighting for justice and pushing for change internally and externally. Toni Morrison’s words continue to ring true: “the function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being.”
The lack of reckoning with marginalised and affected groups which bear the brunt of racist and harmful technologies has been given more focus through DFF’s Decolonising Digital Rights Project, expanding the focus and reach of the digital rights community. Building on this movement remains crucial, as racialised and marginalised people continue to suffer from the increasing use of technologies in our societies. Nani’s fight against injustice has had a long trajectory, and her new organisation, Systemic Justice continues her efforts. Focused on strategic litigation, it centres communities from the start. And by lets these communities lead, rather than letting ‘experts’ dictate the agenda and approach. Making sure that communities are at the forefront of our struggle against injustice remains crucial, if any meaningful systemic change is to happen.
See: De overheid kan ons niet beschermen tegen Big Tech at OneWorld.
Photo by Mishael Phillip from the OneWorld article.