Opportunities Fund

The digital information ecosystem is a fast-evolving field, so Civitates wants to help its grantee partners to respond to emerging challenges and to seize opportunities that might arise. 

In January 2020, the Opportunities Fund was set-up to increase the capacity of Civitates grantee partners to anticipate new challenges ahead and their readiness to address them, by providing additional funding to address critical and emerging issues that intersect with their work.

All Civitates grantees working to improve the digital information ecosystem in Europe can apply for funding under the opportunities fund.  

Here are some examples of initiatives funded under the Opportunities Fund: 

Organisation: European Partnership for Democracy

Duration: August 2020 – March 2021

Amount: € 30 000

The overall goal of our initiative is to strengthen EU action to reinforce democracy within EU member states, including through regulating the digital public sphere in ways that are conducive to democratic principles and practices. Through this proposal, EPD will coordinate collective action of a group of civil society organisations around the European Democracy Action Plan (EDAP) and develop a policy knowledge tool that would allow organisations to visualise the impact of digital policies on fundamental principles of democracy.

Organisation: AlgorithmWatch

Duration: February – May 2020

Amount: € 16 700

Improving access to quality, privacy-protecting data about how platforms curate and moderate content or deal with issues such as “political” advertising, is a key priority for academics, civil society, and regulatory authorities who have an interest in preserving the health of the digital public sphere.  This was a key conclusion of a stakeholder consultation organised by AlgorithmWatch.

AlgorithmWatch commissioned a study aimed at evaluating and shedding light on how best practices in handling sensitive data for the public interest might be applied in the context of intermediary governance. The study highlights two cases: The first focuses on transparency mechanisms aimed at ensuring corporate accountability in Regulation 166/2006 on the establishment of a European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register. The second focuses on transparency mechanisms for the sharing of (sensitive) personal data, using ‘Findata’, the fairly new Finish health and social data access platform.

Organisation: Who Targets Me

Duration: April – July 2020

Amount: €30 000

There are a growing number of datasets of online political advertising. Facebook provides two (Political Ads API and Ad Library Report), Snapchat and Google offer one each, some electoral regulators provide databases of financial information, Who Targets Me and other civil society projects offer data that is crowdsourced by volunteers. The next step for Who Targets Me is to think about how to  create  an enriched, unified dataset of political advertising that anyone can use.

Through the opportunities fund, they seek to develop a software that will join the datasets of online political advertising from various platforms in one place. This pilot project will see the develop a method for cross-referencing political advertising databases, create a simple means to tag and enrich that data, make it available under an open license and open the project so that anyone can improve it.

Organisation: BIRN Hub

Duration: May-October 2020

Amount: €30 000

In order to respond to challenges arising from the covid-19 global pandemic, BIRN and SHARE Foundation have launched a “Digital Rights in the Time of COVID-19” providing public information on the latest updates and cases of arbitrary arrests, surveillance, phone tapping, privacy breaches and other digital rights violations.

BIRN and Share Foundation expand their current monitoring of digital threats by providing accurate information about digital threats during the COVID-19 pandemic and determining who are the main actors that limit the rights and freedom in the digital environment in Central and South East Europe. 

The list of countries monitored has been extended to Kosovo and Montenegro. Additional monitors will be trained in those countries and the violations are uploaded into the current database and on a live blog

Organisation: EDRi

Duration: May 2020 – June 2021

Amount: €30 000

EDRi identified opportunities in the current framing of platform regulation and the AdTech industry at the EU level. EDRi members and their network have observed that beyond dealing strictly with online content moderation, there are ways to put the attention on reining in the monopolistic practices that lead to abuses of digital rights.

With support from the Opportunities Fund, EDRi seeks to pressure decision-makers to put forward regulatory proposals that tackle the abuses of power and exploitative business models that have weaved their way into the heart of the digital ecosystem. This is translated by continuing their engagement with civil society outside of the digital rights sphere and strengthening their advocacy efforts around the upcoming Digital Services Act from the EU Commission.