Highlights of Stockholm 2014 Internet Freedom Forum

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This week, I was in Stockholm, Sweden for the 2014 Internet Freedom Forum. The Stockholm Internet Forum (SIF) is a conference that aims to deepen the discussions on how internet freedom and openness promotes economic and social development worldwide.

This year the forum was focused on two main topics: privacy and multistakeholderism. There were two other issues that raised concerns among the participants and were widely discussed and debated: 1) among civil society, the fact that Edward Snowden and the journalists who worked with him were apparently barred from the forum, and 2) the European decision on the right to be forgotten and its disastrous collateral effect on freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Public Knowledge led two panels, supported by partners from Latin America. The first one, A Civil Rights Based Internet: From Brazil to the World, focused on sharing strategies among civil society and experts to foster a positive agenda for laws regulating internet related activities. These strategies were based on the good example set forth by Marco Civil in Brazil and the Magna Carta of the Philippines. Both pieces of legislation are great examples of civil legal frameworks developed to protect human rights, due process, and net neutrality. Legislation protecting net neutrality coming from Argentina and Chile were also discussed.

The second panel, How Trade Agreements Mess Up with Internet Freedom (view slides), focused on sharing knowledge and raising awareness about multilateral trade negotiations, such as Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement  (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). This panel discussed the impact of the negotiations on internet freedom and internet governance issues such as content regulation, intellectual property, free flow of information, localization of critical resources, and privacy. One of the core conclusions in this panel was the need to push for increased participation and transparency ideals, many of which are already realized in internet governance fora.

The TPP negotiation process has lacked transparency and multi-stakeholder participation, with the only players involved being member governments and cleared advisors from large companies. Civil society, public interest groups, and legislators only know about the TPP's threats due to leaks, since the public is not allowed to see the draft TPP text. Even members of the United States Congress, after being denied the text for years, are now only provided limited access.

More than 500 people from around the world were present at SIF this year and they represented a variety of stakeholders, including representatives from international organizations like OECD and UNCTAD. There was wide support of the multistakeholder model and process established a month ago in Brazil at NetMundial.

Another highlight of the meeting was the soft launch of RedLatam, a website developed by Derechos Digitales from Chile and Access that will serve as a hub for knowledge and strategy sharing among Latin America civil society and experts, to which I am an advisor.

A primary outcome of SIF2014, supported by data from international organizations and the Alliance for Affordable Internet (a4ai), was the need to invest in expanding internet access in developing countries, supported by a digital literacy curriculum and with a focus on empowering women through ICTs.

A video stream of the meeting is available on the official website and you can also follow along with the most controversial topics and commentary from the forum on Twitter with #sif14.

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