San Francisco – The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is honored to announce the 2020 Barlow recipients at its Pioneer Award Ceremony: artificial intelligence and racial bias experts Joy Buolamwini, Dr. Timnit Gebru, and Deborah Raji; sex worker activist and tech policy and content moderation researcher Danielle Blunt; and the global Internet freedom organization Open Technology Fund (OTF) and its community.
The virtual ceremony will be held October 15 from 5:30 pm to 7 pm PT. The keynote speaker for this year’s ceremony will be Cyrus Farivar, a longtime technology investigative reporter, author, and radio producer. The event will stream live and free on Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, and audience members are encouraged to give a $10 suggested donation. EFF is supported by small donors around the world and you can become an official member at https://eff.org/PAC-join.
Joy Buolamwini, Dr. Timit Gebru, and Deborah Raji’s trailblazing academic research on race and gender bias in facial analysis technology laid the groundwork for a national movement—and a growing number of legislative victories—aimed at banning law enforcement’s use of flawed and overbroad face surveillance in American cities. The trio collaborated on the Gender Shades series of papers based on Buolamwini’s MIT thesis, revealing alarming bias in AI services from companies like Microsoft, IBM, and Amazon. Their subsequent internal and external advocacy spans Stanford, University of Toronto, Black in AI, Project Include, and the Algorithmic Justice League. Buolamwini, Gebru, and Raji are bringing light to the profound impact of face recognition technologies on communities of color, personal privacy and free expression, and the fundamental freedom to go about our lives without having our movements and associations covertly monitored and analyzed.
Danielle Blunt is one of the co-founders of Hacking//Hustling, a collective of sex workers and accomplices working at the intersection of tech and social justice to interrupt state surveillance and violence facilitated by technology. A professional NYC-based Femdom and Dominatrix, Blunt researches sex work and equitable access to technology from a public health perspective. She is one of the lead researchers of Hacking//Hustling's “Erased: The Impact of FOSTA-SESTA and the Removal of Backpage” and “Posting to the Void: CDA 230, Censorship, and Content Moderation,” studying the impact of content moderation on the movement work of sex workers and activists. She is also leading organizing efforts around sex worker opposition to the EARN IT Act, which threatens access to encrypted communications, a tool that many in the sex industry rely on for harm reduction, and would also increase platform policing of sex workers and queer and trans youth. Blunt is on the advisory board of Berkman Klein's Initiative for a Representative First Amendment (IfRFA) and the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project in NYC. She enjoys redistributing money from institutions, watching her community thrive, and “making men cry.”
The Open Technology Fund (OTF) has fostered a global community and provided support—both monetary and in-kind—to more than 400 projects that seek to combat censorship and repressive surveillance. The OTF community has helped more than two billion people in over 60 countries access the open Internet more safely and advocate for democracy. OTF earned trust and built community through its open source ethos, transparency, and a commitment to independence from its funder, the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), and helped fund several technical projects at EFF. However, President Trump recently installed a new CEO for USAGM, who immediately sought to replace OTF's leadership and board and to freeze the organization's funds—threatening to leave many well-established global freedom tools, their users, and their developers in the lurch. Since then, OTF has made some progress in regaining control, but it remains at risk and, as of this writing, USAGM is still withholding critical funding. With this award, EFF is honoring the entire OTF community for their hard work and dedication to global Internet freedom and recognizing the need to protect this community and ensure its survival despite the current political attacks.
“One of EFF’s guiding principles is that technology should enhance our rights and freedoms instead of undermining them,” said EFF Executive Director Cindy Cohn. “All our honorees this year are on the front lines if this important work—striving to ensure that no matter where you are from, what you look like, or what you do for a living, the technology you rely on makes your life better and not worse. While most technology is here to stay, a technological dystopia is not inevitable. Used thoughtfully, and supported by the right laws and policies, technology can and will make the world better. We are so proud that all of our honorees are joining us to fight for this together.”
Awarded every year since 1992, EFF’s Pioneer Award Ceremony recognize the leaders who are extending freedom and innovation on the electronic frontier. Previous honorees have included Malkia Cyril, William Gibson, danah boyd, Aaron Swartz, and Chelsea Manning. Sponsors of the 2020 Pioneer Award ceremony include Dropbox; No Starch Press; Ridder, Costa, and Johnstone LLP; and Ron Reed.