Whistleblower Chelsea Manning, Techdirt Founder Mike Masnick, and Free Expression Defender Annie Game Named Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award Winners

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA—The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) announced today that whistleblower and activist Chelsea Manning, Techdirt editor and open internet advocate Mike Masnick, and IFEX executive director and global freedom of expression defender Annie Game are the distinguished winners of the 2017 Pioneer Awards, which recognize leaders who are extending freedom and innovation on the electronic frontier. This year’s honorees—a whistleblower, an editor, and an international freedom of expression activist—all have worked tirelessly to protect the public’s right to know. 

 The award ceremony will be held the evening of September 14 at Delancey Street’s Town Hall Room in San Francisco. The keynote speaker is Emmy-nominated comedy writer Ashley Nicole Black, a correspondent on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee who uses her unique comedic style to take on government surveillance, encryption, and freedom of information. Tickets for the ceremony are $65 for current EFF members, or $75 for non-members.

is a network security expert, whistleblower, and former U.S. Army intelligence analyst whose disclosure of classified Iraq war documents exposed human rights abuses and corruption the government kept hidden from the public. While serving in Iraq, Chelsea worked to release hundreds of thousands of classified war and State Department files on the Internet, including a video depicting the shooting deaths of Iraqi civilians and two Reuters reporters by U.S. troops. Chelsea’s conscience-driven leaks exposed critical information about U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and made it available online to journalists and citizens around the world, greatly contributing to public knowledge, understanding, and discussion of the government’s actions. While serving seven years of an unprecedented 35-year sentence for leaking the documents, she became a prominent and vocal advocate for government transparency and transgender rights, both on Twitter and through her op-ed columns for The Guardian and The New York Times. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. area, where she writes about technology, artificial intelligence, and human rights.

Mike Masnick is the founder and editor of the popular and respected Techdirt blog and an outspoken activist for digital rights, the First Amendment, and a free and open Internet. For 20 years Mike has explored the intersection of technology, policy, civil liberties, and economics, making Techdirt a must-read for its insightful and unvarnished analysis. He was a powerful voice in the fight against SOPA, and coined the term “The Streisand Effect.” Today Mike is in a fight for Techdirt’s survival—he and the weblog are targets of a $15 million libel lawsuit for publishing articles disputing claims of a man who says he invented email. The case pits Mike and Techdirt against the self-proclaimed email inventor and his lawyer, who, bankrolled by Peter Thiel, brought down Gawker. Mike has vowed to stand up for a free and independent press and fight this attempt to silence—or drive out of business—his blog for publishing First Amendment-protected opinions.

is Executive Director of IFEX, a global network of over 115 journalism and civil liberties organizations that defends and promotes freedom of expression as a fundamental human right. IFEX exposes threats to online free expression, focuses on bringing to justice those who harm or kill journalists, and advocates for the rights of media workers, women and LGBT journalists, citizen journalists, and activists. For over 10 years Annie has led IFEX’s efforts to free imprisoned journalists, defend online activists targeted by repressive regimes, provide tools for organizing successful campaigns advocating for free expression, and expose legislation aimed at quelling free speech. Under Annie’s leadership, IFEX has begun pairing more traditional free expression organizations with their more digitized counterparts with a focus on building organizational security capacities. Annie has been activist throughout her career in the NGO sector and is also a published writer and broadcaster of satire and humor.  

“It’s an honor to celebrate this year’s Pioneer Award winners and the work they’ve done to fight for transparency and the rights of all people to freely express their opinions, passions, and beliefs without fear of censorship or retaliation,” said EFF Executive Director Cindy Cohn. “In these turbulent times, it’s essential that the Internet remain free and open and a source of critical information for people around the world. This group of pioneers, often in the face of great personal risk, have stood up courageously and relentlessly for users, for freedom, and for truth. Their work is an inspiration as we continue to defend global digital rights.”

Awarded every year since 1992, EFF’s Pioneer Awards recognize the leaders who are extending freedom and innovation on the electronic frontier. Previous honorees have included Malkia A. Cyril, Aaron Swartz, Laura Poitras, and Citizen Lab.

Special thanks to Airbnb and Ron Reed for supporting EFF and the 2017 Pioneer Awards ceremony. If you or your company are interested in learning more about sponsorship, please contact nicole@eff.org.

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