SAN FRANCISCO—The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is honored to announce that blogger, software developer, activist, and political prisoner Alaa Abd El-Fattah, abortion rights technology organization Digital Defense Fund, and iFixit CEO and co-founder Kyle Wiens will receive the 2022 EFF Awards for their vital work in helping to ensure that technology supports freedom, justice, and innovation for all people.
The EFF Awards recognize specific and substantial technical, social, economic, or cultural contributions in diverse fields including journalism, art, digital access, legislation, tech development, and law.
The awards will be presented at a live ceremony at 6 p.m. PT, Thursday, November 10 at The Regency Lodge, 1290 Van Ness Ave. in San Francisco. Live guests can register at this link. The ceremony also will stream live and free on Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.
The EFF’s annual Pioneer Awards have honored key leaders in the fight for freedom and innovation online over the past 30 years, but these inaugural EFF Awards pivot to a new name to recognize the ways in which the digital world has now fused with modern life. The internet is not simply a frontier: It’s a necessity in modern life and a continually evolving tool for communication, organizing, creativity, and increasing human potential. Together we carry—and must always steward—the movement to protect civil liberties and human rights online.
“The works of Alaa Abd El-Fattah, Digital Defense Fund, and Kyle Wiens represent the highest ideals of technology in service of freedom, justice and innovation,” EFF Executive Director Cindy Cohn said. “Each of them, while working in very different places and issues, have contributed to building a world in which we can all enjoy freedom of expression, freedom from surveillance, and the freedom to control both our bodies and the tools and services that surround us. Their efforts benefit and inspire millions of people across the nation and around the world. We are honored to give them our thanks and some small part of the recognition they deserve.”
Alaa Abd El-Fattah, EFF Award for Democratic Reform Advocacy
Alaa Abd El-Fattah, 40, is an Egyptian-British blogger, software developer, political activist, and perhaps the most high-profile political prisoner in Egypt if not the entire Arab world.
He was instrumental to the creation of the Arab blogger and techie networks, he ran one of Egypt's longest-running and most-celebrated blogs, and co-founded a trailblazing Egyptian blog aggregator. In 2005, his Manalaa blog won the Special Reporters Without Borders Award in Deutsche Welle's Best of Blogs competition.
Though his arrests for activism date back to 2006, he has been imprisoned by the Egyptian government for all but a few months since the 2013 coup d’etat. He has been repeatedly arrested for alleged crimes such as organizing protests without authorization; most recently he was sentenced in December 2021 to five years in prison for sharing a Facebook post about human rights violations in prison. He began a hunger strike in April 2022, and is reported to be in failing health.
An anthology of his writing—including some pieces smuggled out from jail—was translated into English by anonymous supporters and published in 2021 as You Have Not Yet Been Defeated. A fierce champion of free expression, an independent judiciary, and government accountability–even at immense personal cost–he still advocates for democratic reforms, tech freedoms, and civil and human rights in Egypt and elsewhere.
“What needs to happen is a complete change in the order of things,” he told RightsCon in 2011, “so that we are making these amazing products, and we’re making a living, but we’re not trying to monopolize, and we’re not trying to control the internet, and we’re not trying to control our users, and we’re not complicit with governments.”
Digital Defense Fund, EFF Award for Civil Rights Technology
Digital Defense Fund was launched in 2017 to meet the abortion rights movement’s increased need for security and technology resources after the 2016 election. This “multidisciplinary team of organizers, engineers, designers, abortion fund and practical support volunteers” provides digital security and technology support to abortion rights and provider organizations as well as individual organizers.
“DDF’s commitment to building resources for a thriving, resilient, growing abortion access movement has strengthened the field’s transition to digital strategies,” said Cynthia Conti-Cook, a technology fellow working with the Ford Foundation’s Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice team. “Its generous contributions and collaborations with other movements makes DDF so much more than an abortion access digital services organization—it has become a model for embedding movement-aligned technical expertise and a platform for fostering cross-movement learning and strategies.”
The fund’s staff provides digital security evaluations, conducts staff training, maintains a library of go-to resources on reproductive justice and digital privacy, and builds software for abortion access organizations.
DDF’s mission to leverage technology to defend and secure access to abortion became even more crucial with this year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which ended the half-century of abortion rights protected under Roe v. Wade. Despite this setback and the ensuing proliferation of state abortion bans, DDF continues to pursue its vision of “a future where technology and innovation support secure, autonomous reproductive decisions, free from stigma.”
“I don’t think as a culture we recognize, respect, or take care of our digital selves,” DDF Director Kate Bertash tweeted in July. “The me that lives in my machines and across cloud servers of our online spaces is the me that most interacts with the wider world. She deserves as much privacy and protection as physical me.”
Kyle Wiens, EFF Award for Right to Repair Advocacy
Kyle Wiens, 38, is CEO and co-founder of iFixit and a godfather of the Right to Repair movement who has empowered millions of people to fix their own goods, keep jobs, and reduce waste, while also helping to win major exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Wiens and Luke Soules launched iFixit in 2003 in their dorm room at California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo, posting a step-by-step repair guide online for Wiens’ broken laptop. As manufacturers used legal threats to limit access to repair manuals, they worked with their rapidly growing community to create homemade step-by-step illustrated repair guides of their own. Today, iFixit is a collaborative effort spanning thousands of fixers, repair seekers, and translators that provides over 80,000 free open-source repair guides for many thousands of devices. The company takes apart and rates products for ease of repairability, inspiring labeling regulations in Europe that are shaping new product designs.
Starting in 2012, Wiens joined with EFF and other organizations to successfully petition the U.S. Copyright Office for sweeping Right to Repair reforms including the rights to repair medical equipment, unlock phones, repair vehicles and farm equipment by modifying their software, and have third parties perform repairs on an owner’s behalf. In the latest round, the Copyright Office granted a broad exemption for repair of smartphones, home appliances, or home systems. Wiens also has been a stalwart crusader for congressional action to clarify and codify fixers’ and consumers’ rights.
Through it all, Wiens has tirelessly championed the Right to Repair not only as a basic digital freedom, but also as a job creator for countless fixers and a sustainable environmental imperative that keeps tons of e-waste out of landfills. “Our planet is impacted by consumption to a degree that no one expected and few understand,” he says. “I’m trying to get a handle on it.”
To register for this event: https://www.eff.org/awards/effawards/2022/tickets
For past honorees: https://www.eff.org/pioneer/past-winners