When talking about digital rights in Latin America, it’s important to consider the complexity of the issues facing the region. In Mexico, one of the main concerns facing civil society is the abuse of surveillance technologies by the State; in Colombia, the role of digital platforms in crimes such as defamation has become a pressing issue; people in Venezuela face constant obstacles to accessing the internet; in Peru, journalists’ publications have been restricted by the data protection authority; and in Brazil, some social organizations are trying to understand the growing problem of fake news in social media. While these issues have common threads, they have different connotations and relevance for their respective countries. There is no one picture of digital rights in the region.
In this context, we’re pleased to announce the launch of Indela, a new fund that will offer grants and support organizations that promote digital rights in Latin America. Under the strategic direction of Fundación Avina, Luminate, and Open Society Foundations, and with support from the Ford Foundation and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Indela will launch as a $1.5 million, 3-year fund available to civil society organizations, starting in 2019.
“Today, the strength of democracies relies, to a large extent, on the respect of human rights in the digital environment,” said Hannah Draper of Open Society Foundations. As the use of the internet permeates all our activities, the risks we face to our privacy and security are increasing: misinformation in social media, the deployment of invasive surveillance technologies, the indiscriminate personal data collection by private platforms, hacking, and attacks on information and infrastructure systems.
This is especially important in Latin America, where institutional fragilities are reflected in the use of the internet and in the adoption of new technologies. In many of the region’s countries, the effects of authoritarian regimes still persist; some countries have mandates limiting freedom of expression and the right to protest, and some nations have used national security and “tough on crime” narratives as pretexts to advance regressive regulatory proposals in areas such as defamation, privacy or copyright law.
“Indela will strive for the development of the digital rights sector through simple and unified call for proposals. We will work alongside local experts to ensure that the digital rights agenda incorporates their interests and concerns,” said Gabriela Hadid of Luminate. Through our work, we hope that funding and support to civil society will avoid duplicate responses and will be based on accurate diagnosis and identified needs.
“While we understand that experiences in the Global North can be relevant to addressing Latin America’s challenges, we think it’s essential that the work is built from a local understanding,” added Lucía Abelenda of Fundación Avina. This does not imply that they are isolated problems. The state of the digital environment in Latin American countries—and the protection of digital freedoms and rights—is a widely debated issue with a common vision: to build more free and fair societies.