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June 2015

This is the newsletter of the Freedom Online Coalition (FOC). The aim of the newsletter is to share information among Coalition members, highlight both emerging threats and positive new initiatives as well as help coordinate action that promotes the Coalition's objectives for a free and secure internet for all. 


Internet censorship, kill switches violate human rights law, say UN experts 

A coalition of rights experts, including the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, said in a joint declaration that any effort to restrict access to the internet "can never be justified under human rights law". That includes forcing the shut-down of networks, filtering and censoring content, and the physical takeover of broadcast stations.  

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Backlash against Facebook’s free Internet service grows

Facebook’s project has continued to receive protests and backlash; on Monday, 65 advocacy organizations from 31 countries protested Facebook’s project through an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO. According to the letter, the project “violates the principles of net neutrality, threatening freedom of expression, equality of opportunity, security, privacy, and innovation.”

UN Security Council (UNSC) adopts resolution condemning violence against journalists and urges end to impunity

The UNSC adopted a resolution on 27 May condemning all violations and abuses committed against jounralists and strongly deploring impunity for such acts. It affirmed that the work of a free, independent and impartial media constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society, "and thereby can contribute to the protection of civilians". 

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Slovakia: mass surveillance of citizens officially ruled unconstitutional

Mass surveillance has been officially ruled unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court of the Slovak Republic in a case brought by a coalition of parliament members working in cooperation with the European Information Society Institute, a local think tank. The decision will dismantle key elements of Slovakia's 2011 Electronic Communications Act which required mass metadata collection and storage by telcos. 

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Tech Giants Urge Obama to Reject Policies That Weaken Encryption

On 19 May, dozens of civil liberty organizations and more than 140 major tech companies including Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft sent a joint letter to US President Obama warning of “the unintended consequences of any policy meant to weaken the encryption technologies that protect Internet communications” in response to the government’s recent moves towards providing 'back doors' for law enforcement into encrypted technology.".   

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Upcoming Events 

4-5 June
EuroDIG 2015

The Pan-European dialogue on Internet governance 2015 (EuroDIG 2015) will be held in Sofia, Bulgaria. EuroDIG is an open platform for informal and inclusive discussion and exchange on public policy issues related to Internet Governance (IG) between stakeholders from all over Europe. It is open to all European stakeholders that are interested in contributing to an open and interactive discussion on IG issues. 

8-9 June
UNDESA Expert group Meeting on "Advancing a Sustainable Information Society for All" 

The UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), i
n cooperation with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is holding an Expert Group Meeting on “Advancing a Sustainable Information Society for All” on 8 & 9 June 2015 at UN Headquarters, New York. The meeting will bring together international experts to discuss ICT-related issues in the context of the emerging post-2015 sustainable development agenda and the General Assembly’s Overall Review of the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).


15 June – 3 July
Human Rights Council – 29th Session

The 29th Session of the Human Rights Council will be held from 15 June to 3 July at the Palais de Nations in Geneva. The draft agenda includes a panel discussion on "realizing the equal enjoyment of the right to education by every girl", a full-day discussion on the human rights of women and a panel discussion on the effects of terrorism on the enjoyment by all persons of human rights and fundamental freedoms.


FOC Updates

Working Groups

The mandates of all three FOC Working Groups have been renewed through till the next FO Conference in 2016. The Working Group (WG) Terms of Reference are currently under review to iron out membership and affiliation criteria. 


During the FO Conference, Working Group 1 ("An Internet Free and Secure") progressed a number of work items, including continuing to refine the normative recommendations and the accompanying narrative that outlines the importance of ensuring that cyber security is rights-respecting by design; preparing explanatory text for the WG's definition of cybersecurity, and developing plans on consultation, outreach and communications. The Group is pleased to note that its submission for a workshop to promote and discuss the normative recommendations at the 2015 Internet Governance Forum (IGF) was accepted. The WG anticipates that the above work items will be finalized in advance of the IGF meeting in November and will be holding monthly calls to track their progress.


Working Group 2 ("Digital Development and the Rule of Law") held presentations at the FO Conference on the rule of law online with specific focus on the following policy areas: privacy/data protection and freedom of expression. WG2’s next steps will be to set up two sub-groups: 1) Rule of Law and Freedom of Expression 2) Rule of Law and Data Protection and Privacy. Parallel to this, WG2 will be launching a blog series - the first of which will outline the framing of the series as a whole. Moving forward WG2 will identify specific issues to address under the respective policy areas.


Working Group 3 (“Privacy and Transparency Online”) held a number of events in Ulaanbaatar to advance the group’s focus on respecting human rights in the relationship between governments and information and communications technology (ICT) companies. These included a strategy meeting, a consultation with a government developing relevant internet policies, and a public panel. The Group published a draft executive summary of a forthcoming report on transparency about government requests to ICT companies for user information or content restriction, specifically in national security and law enforcement contexts. Over the summer the Group will publish the full report and define the focus of its next mandate. The Group is interested in cooperating with any parties who would like to contribute to its work, and will be issuing a call for new members over the summer.

FOC Communication Policy

All Minutes of FOC Strategy and Coordination meetings will now be published on the FOC websiteAll FOC Newsletters will be published on the FOC website from June onwards.
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