Journalists, activists, academics, and marginalized groups around the world face substantial risks online, often from governments imposing authoritarian digital policies that violate basic freedoms, including the right to assembly, association, and expression online.
“In the East and Horn of Africa sub-region, laws are restricting speech online, weakening privacy, unveiling whistleblowers, and threatening the open and interconnected internet. Additionally, both state and non-state actors are contributing to the increasingly chaotic phenomenon of online hacking threats. Online freedom is at threat now more than ever.” – Neil Blazevic, DefendDefenders
Based on the belief that internet freedom benefits everyone, a new global Internet Freedom Consortium, organized by Internews and funded by the US Agency for International Development, has launched a 3-year initiative to enhance digital security for civil society and media organizations, engage citizens in internet governance debates, and advance human rights online.
The Consortium will feature regionally-based organizations that are leaders in digital rights and digital security and will grow to include a wide range of additional members from each region of the globe. Initial consortium regional leads will include Co-Creation Hub (CcHub), Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), DefendDefenders, Derechos Digitales, Digital Security Lab Ukraine (DSLU), EngageMedia, and Paradigm Initiative (PIN). In addition to Internews, the following international organizations will support consortium members through providing technical support: Article 19, Global Network Initiative (GNI), International Center for Not-for-profit Law (ICNL), Ranking Digital Rights (RDR), and the University of Notre Dame.
Internews will support this distributed network of dedicated Internet freedom-focused organizations to partner with funders, civil society, media, and tech platforms, in order to respond to global digital threats and proactively promote an open Internet.
"As a regional organization with extensive experience in Latin America, for Derechos Digitales this project is a great opportunity to work with a very interesting network of local partners, building capacities that are much needed in a regional context of authoritarianism, techno-solutionism, polarization, and human rights violations. The project will provide an opportunity to enhance the visibility of Latin American voices in the global discussions to protect internet freedom, which will be much enriched by the knowledge and the perspectives locally developed in our region". – María Paz Canales, Derechos Digitales
By supporting localized internet freedom initiatives within a global, community-based internet freedom strategy, the Consortium will construct strong local and regional bulwarks against a rising wave of digital authoritarianism.
“In 2013, we knew something was wrong with the Nigerian government’s curious investments in surveillance technology, but all we had was unquestionable passion. Thanks to early support from Internews, and the opportunity to work with an ecosystem committed to human rights in the digital age, we started addressing these national challenges and led projects that could help limit internet freedom violations. The foundation for Paradigm Initiative’s current work across Central, East, Southern and West Africa was laid by the type of early support and networking opportunities that this 3-year initiative will offer to many organisations just starting.” - 'Gbenga Sesan, the Paradigm Initiative
The consortium expects to work across approximately 50 countries. Internews will announce additional consortium members in the coming months.
(Banner photo: Filming a protest. Credit Morena Berti/Flickr)