LOS ANGELES (February 27, 2023) – The NAACP and The Archewell Foundation have announced the 2023 recipient of the Digital Civil Rights Award. This annual award, launched last year, celebrates a new generation of leaders who are creating transformational change at the intersection of social justice and technology — working to advance civil and human rights.
The NAACP-Archewell Digital Civil Rights Award recognizes long-term contributors to the digital rights space while also supporting a new generation of visionaries working to expand equity, including issues related to discrimination, misinformation, privacy, countering biases, limiting profiling and surveillance, improving transparency, increasing diversity in the tech sector, and more. The winner is awarded $100,000 to be used to advance new work, expand leadership and expertise, and/or continue their impact in the field of digital equity.
This year's recipient is a lawyer and media executive, Nabiha Syed. Syed has led The Markup — previously as President and now as CEO — since its launch, as their award-winning investigations uncover how powerful institutions use technology to reshape society. The Markup's data-driven reporting has analyzed the hidden racial bias in mortgage approval algorithms and student risk algorithms; revealed how telecom companies offer lower-income and more diverse neighborhoods slower internet speeds for the same price as other neighborhoods; and how Meta collects financial information through tax filing websites and health information from hospital systems.
"When we founded this award with the NAACP, we wanted to highlight and uplift people across the country who are transforming the digital world for the better. Nabiha Syed is doing just that, harnessing her own expertise to push for safer, more inclusive online communities," said Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. "Nabiha and her team are shedding light on some of the most critical issues of our time and in doing so, empowering all of us to reclaim some of our most basic freedoms: truth, safety, and choice. She's an inspiration to us and so many others, and we're proud to support her incredibly important work."
NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson said, "We are honored to award and support Nabiha Syed in her mission to make democracy work for all. While technology has made everything more accessible and everyone more connected, it has the potential to cause tremendous setbacks for civil rights, as we have witnessed in recent years. We need to support the greatest minds in tech who are developing equitable platforms and holding corporations accountable, and that is exactly what Nabiha Syed is doing. We are grateful to The Archewell Foundation and The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who have been tremendous partners in the fight to advance civil and human rights across the tech sector."
Syed, a Marshall Scholar who studied law at Oxford, is also an acclaimed media lawyer with a decade of experience in cutting-edge questions around ethical newsgathering, including publishing national security leaks and curbing online propaganda. She has advised two presidents on freedom of expression issues. Syed's portrait hangs at Yale Law School, where she co-founded their nationally recognized media law clinic and remains a fellow of the Information Society Project.
"Technology is the architecture of our reality – but unfortunately, that architecture can perpetuate inequality and injustice. Our job now is to challenge technology to serve us all, not just those who hold power and privilege," said Nabiha Syed. "I am humbled and grateful to the NAACP and The Archewell Foundation for their support as we equip the public to demand better."
The NAACP advocates, agitates, and litigates for the civil rights due to Black America. Our legacy is built on the foundation of grassroots activism by the biggest civil rights pioneers of the 20th century and is sustained by 21st century activists. From classrooms and courtrooms to city halls and Congress, our network of members across the country works to secure the social and political power that will end race-based discrimination. That work is rooted in racial equity, civic engagement, and supportive policies and institutions for all marginalized people. We are committed to a world without racism where Black people enjoy equitable opportunities in thriving communities.
NOTE: The Legal Defense Fund – also referred to as the NAACP-LDF - was founded in 1940 as a part of the NAACP, but now operates as a completely separate entity.