2023 Year in Review: Community, Fundraising and Operations

We're no strangers to love You know the rules, and so do I (do I)

30 December, 2023
12 min read

It is always “a lot is happening” here at IFF. No complaints. But what happens when it does get a lot to keep up with? We choose memes, fun videos, infographics, and community-engaging events - lots of them, as means of civic literacy and public advocacy! This provides nuanced (also fun) ways to reach out to our community about technology, law, and fresh policy interventions. 

Facilitating meaningful engagement within the Digital Rights Community- the IFF style!

We kept the promise of more events and community engagements as per the year’s implementation plan, as 2023 was packed with umpteen virtual events and in-person! 

FoE-Con, 2023 

After all the overwhelming love that we received at FoE Con 2022, IFF, in collaboration with NewsLaundry, returned with a bigger and better second edition of Impolite Conversations, on 1 April 2023 in New Delhi.

FoE Con 2023 united legal and journalistic minds to delve into the challenges of free expression in the digital age. From government censorship to cinematic portrayals of law, we tackled it all. We hosted four sessions that featured speakers like Abhinandan Sekhri, Akash Banerjee, Sakshi Joshi, Shahrukh Alam, Apar Gupta, Manu Sebastian, Gautam Bhatia, Apoorva Mandhani, Atul Chaurasia, Shefali Bhushan, Kaushik Moitra, Meenakshi Arora, Lyric Jain, and Huzefa Ahmadi. Check out the session recordings here

Privacy Supreme, 2023 and 6 years of Puttaswamy judgement 

On 24 August, we hosted Privacy Supreme 2023, IFF’s flagship event that marked the landmark Right to Privacy judgement, and over 160 of you showed up! The ‘duologue’ on ‘Non-artificial’ Consequences of Artificial Intelligence’ featured Shivangi Narayan and Samarth Bansal. Following this, we had an intense discussion on the question: “How Public are Digital Public Infrastructures?” with Mansi Kedia, Rohit Kumar, and Nikhil Pahwa, moderated by Aditi Agrawal. Our last session with Manoj Mitta and Nikita Sonavane delved into the intricate relationship between caste and privacy. Couldn’t make it PS? Here are the session recordings, a shout-out to our friends and the event’s media partner, The Wire. ( Also, Hi Kruttika, thanks for the stunning illustrations for PS 2023, ily :) ) 

The Glass Room: Misinformation Edition, comes to New Delhi, * now in Hindi and Malayalam *

On 20 July 2023, we opened Tactical Tech’s ‘The Glass Room: Misinformation Edition’ - a 10-day exhibition in New Delhi at Khoj Studios. We have been working with Tactical Tech over the past year to translate, localise and exhibit their excellent digital literacy resources and open them up to Indian audiences. This exhibition was the pilot for the Hindi edition of the Glass Room and the Data Detox Kit. These resources are essential reflections of how modern life interacts with technology at every step. The exhibits nudge the audiences towards living an examined life as consumers of these rapidly ever-evolving technology ecosystems. To kick off the exhibition, we hosted Nayantara Ranganathan, Rajneil Kamath and Vrinda Bhandari for a discussion on what it means to be a citizen in an ever-connected society.  A warm thanks to Khoj Studios and Tactical Tech. 

We also hosted the Glass Room: Misinformation Edition’s select exhibits at Médecins Sans Frontières’ Health and Humanity Summit, 2023, in New Delhi and the Digital Citizen Summit in Hyderabad. 

Towards the end of the year, we helped Goethe put together an open discussion “Digital Dilemmas: Democracy and Public Discourse Online” as part of its Alternative Futures – Re-Imagining Digital Spaces program, at the Max Muller Bhavan, New Delhi. The discussion was led by Vrinda Bhandari, Elisa Lindinger, Erik Tuchtfeld, and Aparajita Bharti, with Aditi Agrawal on the moderator’s chair. 

In addition to our in-person events, we hosted several virtual events that allowed community members across India to attend. Including quarterly calls and briefing calls with members and donors. 

Debrief on this year’s Briefing Calls

We believe Briefing calls are important tools to engage with the community on important bills and legislation that shape our digital landscape. ‘Zoom’ing at a breakneck speed (with minor breakdowns before and after calls), in 2023, we hosted seven (!!) Briefing Calls on:

Hosted some glitches on X (formerly, better) 

We hosted a few Twitter spaces (or we tried* to, as we battled the glitches *bombastic side eye*) 

“Am I audible?”

Members' Calls are pertinent as we discuss what we’ve been up to the particular quarter & engage with our community members. This year we hosted three Quarterly Members’ Calls in March, July, and October

In June 2023, we hosted a discussion on the release of the report “No Internet Means No Work, No Pay, No Food - Internet Shutdowns Deny Access to Basic Rights in “Digital India” in collaboration with Human Rights Watch. 

On 19 June 2023, we launched #PlugTheBreach, our initiative to track, report, and document data breaches in India. 

In addition, we also organised an AMA session on r/india, in collaboration with Eko and India Civil Watch on Facebook-Meta's alleged inaction on hate speech in India and urged the shareholders of META to vote yes on ‘Proposal 7’.

To mark the 100 days of state-wide internet shutdown in Manipur, we put together a virtual event on human rights violations of people of Manipur as they remain within an ‘information blackhole’. 

Go, Team strategic campaigns and impactful advocacy!

This year, we picked up campaigns from the past and launched new ones as well. 

KeepUsOnline: Indefinite internet shutdown in Manipur 

The state of Manipur saw over 200 days of internet shutdowns in 2023. More than 2.3 million people were denied access to the internet whilst in the middle of a conflict zone, making Manipur the second state in India to have shut down the internet for such a long duration. Marking the 100th day of the internet shutdown, we launched #KeepUsOnline, our Manipur campaign page documenting the timelines, the cut-copy-paste orders extending the shutdown indefinitely, analysing the reasons listed for the shutdowns, and collating research that demonstrates why shutdowns don’t work. We also worked with the good people of NewsLaundry, to produce a ground report of the impact the shutdown has had on the everyday lives of people in Manipur. 

We hosted a virtual event alongside the launch of the campaign page and extensively engaged with the media with our press release statement. A shoutout to our volunteers, Kaustub, Nilima, Ishan and Anoop, for helping with the design and development of the campaign website! 

#SaveTheInternet, Again?

In September 2023, in response to alarming comments received by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (“TRAI”) on its consultation paper, where Telecos pushed for the “same service, same rules” argument and network usage fees, we relaunched #SaveTheInternet. Led by the Policy team at IFF, and with the support of the SaveTheInternet community, we fought head-on to protect Net Neutrality. Along with the campaign page that mobilised over 1900 individuals writing to TRAI, IFF wrote op-eds in leading English dailies, organised virtual events breaking down the nuances of the issue, and did extensive social media outreach. 

#LetUsChill: Taking on the Broadcasting Bill, 2023 

In November 2023, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (“MIB”), came for the new age media of OTT “ broadcasting” services, independent journalists and online creators. In the draft, MIB proposes to bring the likes of Netflix, and Hotstar under its regulatory ambit, imposing the old censorship engine of cable television on them. In what seems to be an attempt to stifle journalistic speech and expression, the Bill also extends regulatory compliance to individuals who broadcast news and current affairs programs through a digital medium, including a website or a social media platform. *constant state of confused, frustrated, annoyed*

As we said earlier, we may soon see speech expressing satire, irony, sarcasm, dissent, anger, even maybe portrayals of facts and hard-hitting truth, that may not be palatable to the Union or politically influential and powerful communities, being censored or prohibited. 

To stop MIB from moral policing and censoring our online content viewing choices, we asked our community to join us in asking MIB to withdraw this Bill and #LetUsChill. The deadline to send in the comments on the Bill is January 15, 2024, as of the writing of this post. We will continue speaking out against this red flag of a bill, if you haven't yet sent in your comments, now is your chance. 

#7ReasonsForProposal7 

In May 2023, we joined Eko and India Civil Watch, to hold Meta accountable, asking it to address the allegations of biased operations in one of its largest markets, India. 

The campaign aimed at raising awareness and encouraging Meta’s shareholders to vote yes on Proposal 7 titled “Assessing Allegations of Biased Operations in Meta's Largest Market” at Meta's AGM on May 31, 2023. It highlighted allegations against Facebook for disseminating hate speech, its failure to address risks and political bias, and voices concerns about inadequate content moderation and lack of transparency in platform practices. Meta’s board had *of course* already recommended that shareholders vote against this proposal, but hey, we tried! 

Community and Digital Literacy 

We promised video-first! We tried! 

In our 2023 implementation plan, we set out to build a video vertical and began the year by investing in equipment and human resources. In July, we decided to reflect on the progress, reassess priorities in the face of resource constraints and rework our strategy.

This year we produced over 30 video explainers, from the super-hit IFF “The Office” sketch unpacking the mystery, the rumours, the reports and the coming soons of the “Digital India Bill”, interviews with NREGA workers at their 100-day sit-in protest in New Delhi organised by NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, to our coverage of the BlinkIt protests. Want a sneak peek into what it means to be an intern with IFF? Watch former interns turned staffers share their experiences! Lastly, dropping a cool BTS of how IFF advocates for your digital rights! 

Time for Canva queens to shine. 

Apart from video formats, we also continued on our streak of creating banger visual explainers, breaking down complex tech-policy jargon for our community, and polishing design formats for our briefs and other publications. Here’s my pick for 2023, this smooth carousel we made trying to break down the legality of Search and Seizure of our digital devices, based on a paper by the only best, Abhinav Sekhri. 

How many memes do you want? Yes

From Sophie Turner’s strong opinions on Digiyatra, Co-star’s predictions on FRT encounters, Nanalan's Mona expressing frustration at the Broadcasting Bill, to many inky pinky ponkies and the donkeys, and celebrating SRK’s birthday (again). And of course, we gave in to the Barbeinheimer fever with Privacy Supreme. 

Oh, to be an IFF member! 

The beloved IFF community supports our collective vision for a transparent, accountable and free internet and we are fuelled by that kind of support. To make the donation and subscription process easier, we revamped the donation tiers to incorporate more tiers that did not fit in earlier. 

And in other news, IFF has new merch! Dystopian, but fun. 

We thank the artists, The Alipor Post, journal x owl, Smish Designs, Mean Curry, & Spaceman Stripes for pouring their hearts into designing such stunning illustrations for IFF merch! We also thank Frankly Wearing for hosting our merch at their storefront. Stand up for digital rights in cute gear! Explore these adorable merch options on Frankly Wearing's website and join us in supporting our mission!

 

Fundraising

Let’s talk numbers

In 2023, our overall income dropped by 30%, compared to 2022, totalling INR 70,63,671.55 in donations from members, one-time donors, and organizational donors. Our total expenses for the year amounted to INR 89,17,586.17, with the majority allocated to staff salaries (81%) and operational costs (19%).

Our membership base decreased from 309 to 179, and the decline in one-time donations from individual donors is mainly attributed to drop-offs and outdated mandates. 

As always, none of our work would be possible without the support of our members and donors. Achieving financial stability remains one of our organizational priorities, and we appreciate all the support we get! For 2023, we face a massive gap of over INR 23L between our income and expenses. This puts us in a tough position as enormous challenges mount against our digital liberties; with declining civic space and fundraising avenues, our operational costs continue eating into our organisational savings. The unwavering support of everyday citizens like you allows us to continue speaking truth to power in these challenging times. Your faith in us has kept us going. Help us bridge this gap and sustain the work we do.

Looking ahead to 2024, we're aiming to expand our IFF fam by bringing in more digital rights enthusiasts!

We appreciate the contributions of Wingify & SasBhoomi. We also received a grant from UNESCO as a part of the Global Media Defence Fund for our work on the Digital Patrakar Defence Clinic. This year, we received a grant from the Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiative to support the inaugural cohort of IFF’s Freedom Innovation Fellowship. The fellowship aims to train young lawyers who want to create an impact beyond the courtroom and the black & white! 

Money, money, money, must be funny- no, it is not

To increase individual giving this year, we hosted 3 fundraisers and a birthday fundraiser hosted by our friend, Nemo!  

In August, as part of the Annual Membership Drive, we focused on signing up 100 new members. We were able to sign up 28 new members, and the new signups received signed copies of Gautam Bhatia’s Unsealed Cover, Manoj Mitta’s Caste Pride, Aakar Patel’s The Anarchist Cookbook, Shrayana Bhattachrarya’s Desperately Seeking Shahrukh, or a signed print of the Masaan screenplay by Varun Grover. Huge thanks and warmest hugs for standing with IFF and supporting its goal for rights and freedoms in the digital scape!

This month, we launched our year-end fundraiser to help us bridge the widening gap of over INR 23L between our income and expenses. We largely operate on a retail fundraising model that prioritizes individual giving. This year, we faced several challenges that hindered our ability to grow our fundraising efforts. Fueled by your sustained support, donate to help IFF through its year-end fundraiser. 

Nemo, a long-time IFF friend, hosted a match fundraiser for their birthday on December 29, 2023. And that’s one sweeter-than-holiday-treat kinda gesture. Nemo raised a total of INR 3.06L amount for IFF!

Once again, our efforts are only made possible by our members and donors. Attaining financial stability continues to be a paramount focus for our organization, and we welcome any support extended to us! Looking ahead to 2024, we aspire to engage more community members in fundraising efforts. If you're interested in contributing, feel free to reach out to us at [email protected].

Organisational Developments

Defending the Digital Republic - with hellos and goodbyes. 

This year IFF’s  Board of Trustees welcomed Ms. Vandita Morarka (Founder and CEO of One Future Collective) and Mr. Anshul Tewari (Founder of Youth Ki Awaaz) as the new Board Trustees. Ms. Rachita Taneja and Mr. Aravind Ravi-Sulekha stepped down as Trustees of the Board after serving a term of seven years. IFF acknowledges their invaluable contribution from day zero. 

After a term of 6 years, Apar Gupta transitioned from the role of IFF’s Executive Director. As documented and tangibly articulated in the Implementation Plan for 2023, Apar’s transition formed a part of IFF’s strategic planning efforts for continuing growth. Currently, Apar serves as a Trustee at the Board in an observer capacity. 

We thank Apar for his contribution in building IFF, his vision and his leadership! 

After serving a successful year and a half as the Policy Director of IFF, Prateek Waghre has now donned the hat of Executive Director. We are thrilled about his transition and excited for what his leadership has to offer!

Towards a fair and inclusive organisational culture

As we work on making our organization safe and fair, IFF held its yearly training on the PoSH policy and gender sensitivity, facilitated by One Future Collective. The training focused on an intersectional feminist approach to understanding how gender operates in workplaces that emphasised equity, sensitivity, and greater empathy among staffers. 

The PoSH committee comprises four members, including one external member. Internal committee members are Tejasi Panjia, Radhika Roy, and Prateek Waghre, while Tania Devaiah serves as the external member. 

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