We are thrilled to announce that the Digital Trust Foundation has awarded Without My Consent a grant to support three distinct projects: (1) to fully build out the 50-State Project; (2) to create a resource mapping the existing options and best practices to address online harassment called the Something Can Be Done! Guide; and (3) to develop and run a best-in-class Lawyer Training Program to empower representation of digital abuse victims across the United States.
This is a huge event for the future of your and our privacy. Until now, there has been scarce funding for legal nonprofits to protect your and my online privacy when the bad actor is not the government or a corporation, but another person. Educating the general public in this space is limited, and often ill-informed and broken. This vacuum has manifested itself in an epidemic of digital abuse. The original dream of an internet free from government abuse has been replaced by the reality of online communities "run by warlords" who use out-of-bounds tactics like nonconsensual porn and laundered harassment to destroy the lives of others with impunity.
How did this happen? Access to the civil justice system is prohibitively expensive for most people. Many nonconsensual porn and digital abuse cases play out in family courts and small claims courts, where judges don’t have the time, resources or training to engage in a nuanced analysis of speech and privacy in the digital age. Often, there is no procedure that requires a judge to consider a victim’s privacy interests in proceeding anonymously in a nonconsensual porn case. There is no form that tells a judge whether it is consistent with free speech doctrine to require that a restrained party take down, destroy, and refrain from reposting nonconsensual porn content. The issues are expensive to argue and litigants representing themselves normally lack the legal expertise to do it themselves. One result of this environment is a dearth of legal precedent to map out the paths to justice.
WMC funding is a win for you and me. It is a win for those who believe our legal system must balance the values of free speech, privacy, and equality in a digital world. WMC wants to direct resources to where they are most needed – to victims, their advocates and attorneys, law enforcement, and judges – so that victims are empowered to seek justice.
It is our hope that WMC will give victims a boost to reclaim their lives through a civil and criminal justice system that welcomes online speech, privacy and harassment cases, because with proper training these cases can be administered just as well as the “simpler” cases. WMC will facilitate this by making high quality legal resources widely available for free on its website. These resources will establish that we can stop harassment, revenge porn and other forms of online harm within the existing First Amendment framework.
We want the resources we develop and publish under this generous grant to reflect a conversation with you, the public. We have some ideas about what is needed. We encourage you to read about our ideas here. If you are a victim, an advocate, a judge, or law enforcement, please feel free to reach out to WMC at firstname.lastname@example.org to give us your wish list. What do you want to know, and how can WMC empower you to play your part in the justice system in the digital age?
Let's get to work!