7th Annual Freedom Online Conference in Berlin

On 28-30 November, the 7th Annual Freedom Online Conference took place at the German Federal Foreign Office in Berlin, under the theme Internet Freedom at a Crossroads – Common Paths towards Strengthening Human Rights Online. The Conference gathered 350 participants from 90 countries and had just under 60 governments in attendance.

The event was opened by Germany’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Heiko Maas. In his opening speech, Minister Maas spoke of the incredible opportunities the internet provides, in sharing ideas, connecting people and providing a space for differences. At the same time, he pointed to a number of worrying trends that risk fragmenting and dividing people, cultures and countries, that violate human rights and harm our democracies. These trends pose two essential questions: Will we manage to preserve the internet as a realm of freedom, or will it become an instrument of suppression? And will we be able to steward democracy in the digital age, or will the internet become a threat to our current systems of government?  The Foreign Minister further stressed freedom is not to be taken granted, either online or offline, and emphasized the importance of involving all stakeholders in creating the best conditions for protecting human rights online. All actors – governments, private sector, civil society must actively work together to ensure that the internet can remain a space of freedom and democracy.

The Conference addressed these questions through two plenary sessions and 12 parallel workshops, developed jointly by FOC governments and the FOC Advisory Network – a truly multistakeholder endeavour. The Conference program built on FOC priorities identified in the Program of Action for 2018, including state-sponsored restrictions to human rights online, efforts to support civil society voices online and bridge the digital divides, and discussions around promotion and protection of human rights in the context of cybersecurity. It additionally addressed a number of critical issues, including content regulation in the digital age, the impact of emerging technologies on human rights, fake news and disinformation and their impact on trust and confidence in the Internet.

You can read the Chair Summary here.