On November 10, people from all corners of the digital rights community gathered in San Francisco for the EFF Awards, a newly rebranded annual celebration of the movement for digital freedom, justice and innovation. The Electronic Frontier Foundation presented three awards to recognize the work of Alaa Abd El-Fattah, the Digital Defense Fund and Kyle Wiens. Each of these honorees contributed to building a world in which we can all enjoy freedom of expression, freedom of surveillance, and the freedom to control both our bodies and the tools and services that surround us. If you missed the awards, you can watch it on YouTube or the Internet Archive. You can also read the full transcript.
EFF Executive Director Cindy Cohn welcomed everyone, in person, for the first time in two years. He began by reflecting on how the celebration, known for 30 years as the Pioneer Award ceremony, honored key leaders. on the electronic frontier that were expanding the health, growth, accessibility and freedom of computing tools. The change to the EFF Awards moniker recognizes that the Internet is no longer just a frontier, but a necessity in modern life and an ever-evolving tool for communication, organization, creativity and the enhancement of human potential.
We’re just not pioneers anymore. We are creators and users of technology building a digital future together…
“Tonight, we mark a new stage in these annual celebrations. […] We’re just not pioneers anymore… We’re creators and users of technology building a digital future together and confronting powerful forces of both corporate and government repression.”
Since last year’s awards, EFF has partnered with reproductive rights groups to adapt our digital safety guidelines for those seeking or providing abortion services in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in repeal federal protections for reproductive rights; pushed for strong privacy protections for transgender and reproductive health data; and drew attention to a data broker-dealer app that collects data from hundreds of millions of US devices and maps it for police, often without a warrant, through our Fog Data Science investigation .
Before the ceremony continued, EFF Director of Advocacy Gennie Gebhart and Technologist Yan Zhu took a moment to honor two members of the EFF family we lost this year, Elliot Harmon and Peter Eckersley. Reflecting on their time working together, Gennie and Yan shared, “The fights that Elliot and Peter won over the internet will continue to affect people’s lives for the better, and the people who had the privilege of working with them, including – there are many of them. we are here tonight; we are also privileged to carry forward the vision of a freer, more open, safer and more vibrant Internet that they knew was possible.”
Presenting the first award of the night, EFF Special Adviser Danny O’Brien presented the work of Alaa Abd El-Fattah, a British Egyptian blogger, software developer, political activist and perhaps the most prominent political prisoner in Egypt, if not the entire Arab world. A fierce defender of free speech, an independent judiciary, and government accountability, even at immense personal cost, he still champions democratic reforms, technological freedoms, and civil and human rights in Egypt and elsewhere.
In the midst of a 220-day hunger strike, and then also a water strike, Alaa and her family focused on fighting for their freedom and raising awareness of their plight during the Cop27 climate summit, and they were understandably unable to attend the EFF Awards. . Jillian York, EFF’s director of International Freedom of Expression, shared a video for Alaa during the ceremony, reflecting on her memories of their friendship: “She taught me to be fearless and unashamed in my activism, to not be afraid to speak up and do it with humor whenever possible.” The video ended with words of support: “Alaa deserves to be free, and I hope this award, which she deserves, will help her secure her freedom. To Alaa with my eternal solidarity: congratulations, and may you soon be free.”
Introducing the next award winner, EFF Staff Technologist Daly Barnett spoke about the imperative need for the Digital Defense Fund and its work to provide digital security and technology support to abortion rights and provider organizations, as well as the individual organizers. Accepting the award, Director of DDF Kate Bertash thanked the abortion access organizations and activists who work with DDF, as well as their colleagues who work in trans rights, racial justice work and sex worker rights: “This award is for them “.
Reflecting on the history of abortion prosecutors using digital data and the censoring of accurate and legal information about abortion, “Today we find ourselves as abortion advocates in a struggle for the soul of what abortion means. internet freedom and its real consequences for our freedoms in the physical world.It is through these experiences of abortion seekers, and those who support them, that we have affirmed the inextricable link between our rights to bodily autonomy and our rights to digital privacy.”
EFF Senior Legislative Activist Hayley Tsukayama introduced the evening’s award-winning finalist, Kyle Wiens, CEO and co-founder of iFixit and godfather of the Right to Repair movement. Hayley spoke about the importance of Right to Repair and the recent legislative victories that Kyle has been involved with: “He has had countless meetings with legislators, employees, parliamentarians, regulators and others, helping them see the benefits of repair. At the same time, it never forgets the center of the right to reparation: real people”.
As Kyle took the stage, he recounted memories of sitting in his 7th grade class reading about the passage of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and how iFixit grew from writing manuals for Apple repair in a dorm room to become a community of people around the world. with 80,000 repair guides for around 30,000 devices and helps nearly 8 million people a month learn how to fix things.
In addition to the recent victory in Colorado, New York’s “Right to Repair” law is on the verge of passing, despite trillions of dollars in market capitalization lobbying against the bill. “If we don’t capture this moment in time, if we don’t get it now, we will miss this opportunity and we will be stuck in a world where we have the control of the manufacturer and none of us have autonomy over our devices.”
The ceremony closed with Aaron Jue, director of member engagement, noting the diversity and importance of the work of this year’s honorees. EFF greatly appreciates the opportunity to honor these digital rights heroes. The highlight of our year is bringing together these advocates from around the world to honor and empower their important work. Please take a moment to watch the performances if you missed them.
Watch the ceremony
Recording enabled YouTube and the Internet Archive
A special thanks to our sponsors: Dropbox; Electric capital; No starch press; Ridder, Costa & Johnstone LLP; and Ron Reed to support the 2022 EFF Awards.