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Encryption and Content Filtering: Report from Madrid Chapters Meeting

Members from 22 European Internet Society Chapters in 20 countries gathered in Madrid on April 14, 2016 to discuss current public policy issues that affect the Internet. The meeting attendees were welcomed by Frédéric Donck, the Director of Internet Society’s European Bureau, who emphasized the importance of Chapters working together to address these issues. The countries represented in the meeting were Armenia, Finland, France, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey and UK, so there was a wide range of different geographic locations as well as political systems represented.

The first part of the day was dedicated to sharing experiences in advocacy work. The Chapters in various countries have different ways of approaching public policy issues and the political systems and climates vary from country to country, thus there is no one-size-fits-all way of impacting policy. Going round the table we discovered that there are a lot of different ways to make the voice of the chapters heard by the policy makers but at the same time certain repeating patterns emerged.

From the case studies that the chapters shared, four approaches to advocacy work could be distinguished. One of them is awareness building, or educating and informing the public and the decision makers. This includes among other things organising events, writing op-ed articles and publishing position papers. Second one is activism, which may take different forms and is a little harder to define. An example of this is the Swiss chapter collecting signatures to force a surveillance law into referendum. Third, there is consultation, which basically means giving a formal opinion when asked. In many countries governments organise public consultation rounds when laws are prepared. Finally there is cooperation, in which chapter actively engages with the policy makers and tries to impact the legislation or regulation by offering expertise and participating in the process. Together these different approaches form a kind of a toolbox to choose from, depending on the circumstances.

The rest of the day was used to address two specific policy issues that are timely and affect multiple countries in Europe, encryption and content filtering. The topics were picked from the 2015 Internet Policy Timeline project in which European chapters identified emerging policy issues that need attention.

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