From March 6-10, EngageMedia attended the Internet Freedom Festival in Valencia, Spain.
As one of the few global, civil society focused events, the festival was a refreshing change from the often highly branded multi-stake holder conferences. Here, amongst allies, the conversation went much deeper across a range of topics from digital security, free software, free media, journalist safety, policy issues and more. It also provided the opportunity for long conversations with allies, partnership development, and the hatching of plans.
EngageMedia was part of several discussions and presentations including ‘Exploring secure and anonymous video capture and distribution’, ‘Architectures of Internet freedom movements in Southeast Asia’, and ‘Research on security digital perspective of journalist in Indonesia and Philippines’. It was gratifying to see such large representation from Southeast Asia, with a host of organisations from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Myanmar and more.
I led a session on secure video capture and distribution with the Guardian Project, Open Archive, Freedom of the Press Foundation and Small World News. The session explored the privacy and safety implications of commonly used video sharing sites, and the challenges of scaling open source alternatives. Sites such as YouTube have carved out a defacto monopoly on video distribution, one that is built on advertising and the collection of users’ data, or Surveillance Capitalism, in the words of Shoshana Zuboff. This creates insecure systems for those working in sensitive environments, and brings users into a web that doesn't respect their privacy. Using distribution platforms that are secure and anonymous to break important stories is increasingly difficult.
There have been various attempts at creating more secure and anonymous systems, EngageMedia’s Plumi platform being one of them. In the larger game, however, we are massively out-gunned. The problem is difficult to solve given the large amount of resources required to build alternatives of that scale.
The need and desire for such alternatives was clearly present in the session, and whilst the know-how is there, fundamentally the question is one of resources. Everyone involved will certainly be continuing their work to chip away, but we need to move beyond proof of concepts to much larger audiences to provide the secure and anonymous services journalists and activists need. This will require a lot creative organising, more collaboration and funders and others to come on board.
The Internet Freedom Festival also saw us connect with our fellow Association for Progressive Communications (APC) members, always an enjoyable and productive experience. EngageMedia and APC are currently collaborating to produce CoCoNet, a Southeast Asia digital rights camp that is in many respects similar to the Internet Freedom Festival, however on a regional basis.
If you are thinking of attending the Internet Freedom Festival next year we’d very much recommend it!