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The international movement in Europe and beyond

The digital rights movement in Europe is strengthening. Many new and successful groups are emerging, which is helping ORG get your views heard.

The most prominent of the new civil society groups is La Quadrature du Net, who led the battle for Amendment 138, and helped establish in politician’s minds that internet access is part of our right to freedom of expression. They have also led the fight for an open internet in Europe, highlighting the inadequacies of ‘transparency’ and competition law to resolve problems of traffic discrimination that may emerge under the new Telecoms Package passed by Europe.

Another movement emerged in the Free Culture Forum campaigning for innovation, creativity and access to knowledge. They held a meeting in Barcelona this year, producing a charter which ORG and EFF have signed.

This year, European Digital Rights (EDRi), of which ORG is a member, has employed a full time Advocacy Co-ordinator in Brussels. This addresses one of the key weaknesses we have had: lack of a presence near the EU’s Parliament and Commission, who are making many of the critical decisions on internet, competition, privacy and copyright law. This is a major step forward, although one person still seems hardly enough, and we still lack some of the other tools we need as campaigners.

MySociety’s tools for transparency and contacting elected representatives need full replication at an EU level, and we all need to work to keep the EU’s actions in the media, rather than their confining discussion to a handful of technical websites. Democratic scrutiny is the only way we can ensure our rights are defended, and that starts with campaigners and the media.

The most startling change however is the politicisation of digital rights, exemplified by the election of the first two Pirate Party MEPs in Sweden. While we may not agree with everything they say or do, and will always find and need other political allies, such as the remarkable Stavros Lambrinidis, the fact that digital copyright and privacy issues can produce a mass movement that unseats politicians should be a wake up call to politicians across Europe.

Overall, defence of our digital rights is complicated and faces severe threats, whether that is through secretive and undemocratic international trade agreements like ACTA, or the export of poor practice like traffic data retention from Europe to countries with poor human rights records; but the movement is strong and more diverse than ever. New groups are springing up in many European countries and elsewhere, and we are better supported and more experienced.