In April 2014, Estonia hosted the fourth annual Freedom Online Coalition conference. Under the title ‘Free and Secure Internet for All’, the main focus across 19 plenary and panel discussions was how to protect and strengthen freedom online in the face of new challenges and the complex and hotly debated subject of Internet governance.
More than 400 delegates from over 60 countries gathered at the event in the Estonian capital of Tallinn with representatives from government, business and civil society. The event was organized around three broad themes: fundamental freedoms online; how private companies can advance freedom online; and lastly, Internet governance and the importance of preserving Internet’s un-fragmented nature. For a detailed overview of all sessions and panel discussions, please see the Conference Summary of the FOC chair.
The conference was an opportunity for civil society and private sector representatives to exchange views and strategize with governments from round the world. Concerns were raised over the growing wave of censorship of freedom of expression, attempts to establish state sovereignty over the Internet and deepening government involvement in restricting online freedoms in numerous countries around the world. Some participants highlighted their concerns about surveillance activities and potential threats to personal rights to privacy. FOC country representatives acknowledged the concerns raised, but stressed their ongoing commitment to deal with these issues in compliance with human rights norms. FOC representatives welcomed the wide ranging discussions and expressed appreciation for constructive cooperation from other stakeholders and emphasized the importance of open dialogue with partners. They stressed the need for continuous joint action to preserve a free and secure Internet and the appropriate governance structures.
At the conference, the 23 Freedom Online Coalition Members unanimously adopted a set of ‘Recommendations for Freedom Online’ , also known as the Tallinn Recommendations. The recommendations reaffirm the commitment of the 23 member countries to respect and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, and re-emphasized that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online. For the first time the recommendations themselves were drafted using a multistakeholder process, led jointly by the Estonian e-Governance Academy and Freedom House. The four-month project involving NGOs, the private sector, international organisations, and FOC governments led to the consensus outcome document. In an effort to further strengthen freedoms online, the signatories pledged to strengthen the multistakeholder model of Internet governance, to enhance transparency of government processes and to promote freedom of speech and the free flow of information online.
During the conference the FOC welcomed Japan and Moldova as new members. The Mongolian Foreign Minister announced that the fifth Freedom Online conference will be held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia in May 2015.