15 June, 2016

The NHSM at EuroDIG16

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Category: Action against hate content., Internet, Report, Uncategorized
Menno Ettema
12 pm

On June 9th  and 10th in Brussels there has been the European Dialogue on Internet Governance, better known as EuroDig, a great event with over 700 participants from all over Europe all involved in different ways in the use and the administration of internet, with people from governmental institutions to big businesses, going through Academia, civil society and NGOs. As the definition of the event says in fact, “The Pan-European dialogue on Internet governance (EuroDIG) is an open platform for informal and inclusive discussions on public policy issues related to Internet Governance”, implying the active participation of all the actors of this dialogue, which follows a so called “multi-stakeholder approach”, making it the best platform in Europe to develop new processes and new policies regarding the digital governance.

For the No Hate Speech Movement this has of course been a great opportunity both in terms of learning, giving the activists the chance to understand more about many technicalities and processes related to the use of Internet, and for the promotion for the campaign, which has been introduced among relevant institutions and individuals.

Given the structure of the event, different speeches and panel discussions were happening at the same time, distributed in a really dense program, which us from the NHSM  followed according to the aims and the contents of our campaign.

Six of our activists, Alessandra, Debora, Enrico, Irina, Neringa and Umit have in fact been selected to attend the event, and them together with the campaign’s coordinator, Menno Ettema, secured great visibility to the NHSM, attending to different panels.

The first mention about the movement arrived during the open mic session of the welcoming speech of the event, in front of all participants in the Gold Hall of the Square Centre in Brussels, where Menno and Debora introduced the campaign inviting people to start a dialogue with us in order to promote a better understanding of the issue of hate speech and proposing the planning of an educational training on this matter.

After that we attended the first Flash session about Terms of service & human rights which provided a forum for discussion and brainstorming on the role of Terms of Service (ToS), including Privacy Policies, as a focus for regulatory and self-regulatory action for the protection and promotion of human rights.

Following this we attended the Council of Europe platform between governments and major Internet companies on respect for human rights and rule of law online, a discussion really relevant to us given the role of Council of Europe and that showed mainly the existing policies and relationship between CoE and companies. It was showed the will to develop further collaborations between these stakeholders, with special regard to human rights and a mention of the campaign, as we wanted to remind the importance of education and youth participation in these future deals.

Meanwhile Menno and Irina attended a working session on opportunities and challenges of Media online. Irina was involved in its preparation while Menno was one of the key Speakers. He spoke about the campaign as a youth response to the growing spread of hate speech that effectively silences many groups to express their views in the online media, including women, Roma, and other groups that are often discriminated in Society. The participants discussed if the media-sites but also social networks where news is often posted should draw a line and take down articles and comments that are considered Hate Speech. Paul Nimits, Director for Fundamental rights and Union citizenship in the Directorate General for JUSTICE of the European Commission, agreed with that statement and the aims of the no hate speech campaign, stressing that internet businesses should comply to the anti-discrimination legislation of Europe and be more effective in taking down illegal hate speech after it has been reported to them by the users.  He also presented the Code of Conduct on taking down illegal hate speech that had been signed by the EU with Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Twitter. Menno also highlighted however that any efforts to take down content should be done following clear guidelines which should be developed together with the users, including the youth, hence the need for youth participation in internet governance.

Regarding the education another interesting session was the Empowerment through education one, which highlighted the necessity of introducing media literacy as a subject in formal education and that was enriched by many interventions from different guests, like our own coordinator Menno among others. They all stressed the role of critical thinking, which should always go with the updating of the tools given to young generations.

Other relevant participations were the one at Blocking, filtering and take-down of Internet content in Europe. State of play in the Council of Europe 47 member States and at Confronting the digital divide – Refugees, human rights and Internet access.

During the first one we could listen to the results of a major Comparative study on blocking, filtering and take-down of Internet content in the 47 member States of the Council of Europe that was commissioned to the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law. Some of its main findings are that in some States measures to block, filter and take-down Internet content fail to meet the conditions of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights; there are also States where the picture is not clear due to the lack of information; some States fail to define what is and isn’t acceptable online in a sufficiently precise way; and Internet intermediaries play a crucial role in this domain. The discussion revolved also around the complex dilemma of ensuring freedom of expression while limitating a criminal use of the internet. About this there were many relevant interventions that showed how many governments can abuse the law to censor dissonant voices, as highlighted by Yaman Akdeniz, professor at Istanbul Bilgi University, as well as interventions focused on the dangers hidden in the misuse of online resources, which can spread illegal practices and violence.

During the last session instead, we had the chance of listening to empowering stories and good practices all over Europe in support to refugees, talking also about our visions for the campaign and what can be done in this regard, inviting people to join us and take action on the 20th of June and beyond, handing out badges and cards to everybody in the room.

Through the whole conference we managed to take pictures with many relevant participants, most prominently with the Secretary General of CoE Thorbjørn Jagland and the Estonian minister of foreign affairs Marina Kaljurand, but of course with many friends as well, including the amazing blond Elvis, the mascotte of the 70s’ Gala.


The EuroDig experience has surely left us more empowered, teaching us what does it mean to join a platform which includes the highest levels of the dialogue on Internet Governance in Europe, allowing us to go more deeply in many technical aspects concerning this issues. Nonetheless we left Brussels with the awareness of having spread the joy and the enthusiasm of young activists who believe in a fairer and more inclusive world of which internet can truly be a reflection.

For this reason I’d like to finish this small report quoting an inspiring sentence from a participant: “Internet doesn’t belong to anybody, everybody can make a difference”. We as activists in fact should always remember that we need to keep up with our fights because every small act can make a difference, online and offline.

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