CMDS Hosts Annual Summer Course on Internet Governance, Civil Society and Policy Advocacy

The summer course, hosted by the Center for Media, Data and Society, entitled „Advanced Topics in Internet Governance, Civil Society and Policy Advocacy” was held between June 28-July 4, 2015 and it brought together 22 students from 18 countries to address the most pressing challenges, topics around internet governance, freedom of expression, digital rights and policy advocacy, and to learn from case studies, and practice security and advocacy design tools.


CMDS hosts annual summer course on internet governance, civil society and policy advocacy Photo: CMDS

Researchers, activists, journalists, private industry, policy makers and advocates gathered in Budapest for this intensive summer course to gain new insights into the complex relationship between technology, free expression, and policy that lie at the heart of debates between global security and human rights.

The course was directed by CMDS’ Kate Coyer and Eva Bognar and Susan Abbott from Cross-Pollinate in Denver, who each led several sessions during the week in the themes of internet governance and policy advocacy. Participants represented diverse backgrounds and expertise including activists from Sudan and Hungary and those coming from the Internews office in Kabul, Google Ireland, the SHARE Foundation, the European Parliament, the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, Serbia's Independent Journalist's Association, the Legal Resources Centre in Johannesburg, and a number of academic institutions such as Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet & Society, Koc University in Turkey, Corvinus University in Budapest, the University of Copenhagen, University of San Francisco, Freie Universität in Berlin, and McGill University in Montreal, among others.

Jillian C. York from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Hanane Boujemi from Hivos and Sejal Parmar from CEU discussed the legal framework of internet governance, freedom of expression and digital rights, and Jillian also presented her work on global advocacy for internet freedom. Tin Geber from the engine room demonstrated an array of digital security tools. Several sessions addressed the key threats and opportunities investigative journalism faces today with Peter Noorlander from the Media Legal Defence Initiative, who also joined Andras Petho from Direkt35 and Ellen Hume from CEU to examine the differences between traditional, print journalism and the complexities of online journalism, especially the legally complex standing of blogger-turned-journalists. Amy Brouillette from CEU presented her research on mapping Hungarian media ownership, as an example of how research can contribute to advocacy.

Eoin Young from the International Center for Policy Advocacy held a workshop on advocacy design, while Lisa McInerney from Dublin City University gave an overview on researching violent online extremism and the VOX-Pol project, which CMDS is a contributing partner of. Renata Avila from the World Wide Web Foundation led a group of participants to contribute feedback to the UN Special Rapporteur report on whistleblowing and the protection of sources. UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Belarus and CEU Faculty Miklos Haraszti gave an overview of his report on media freedom, advocacy and diplomacy in Belarus. State surveillance and privacy issues were the themes of Privacy International’s Eric King’s presentation, and Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick from the School of Public Policy of CEU demonstrated how drones can be employed by civil society. Miklos Ligeti from Transparency International and Tamas Bodoky from Atlatszo discussed the ways NGOs and civil society can promote transparency, and Lina Dencik from Cardiff University presented her work on political activism and anti-surveillance resistance examining responses to the Snowden leaks. The course benefited from presentations from two participants: Agnieszka Konkel from the European Parliament talked about her work on net neutrality, while Dalia Haj-Omar, a Sudanese human rights activist and founder of the bilingual advocacy blog, Sawtna.net, shared her experiences with supporting the independent civil society and youth groups in Sudan. The course wrapped up with a day-long policy hack lab.

The program was organized in cooperation with the CEU SUN office, whose colleagues provided invaluable support and assistance to the realization of the course. It builds on the success of CMCS-convened courses over the past five years on internet policy advocacy and civil society, and was made possible with collaboration and support from the Center for Global Communication Studies at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania and the Independent Journalism Program of the Open Society Foundation.

Course co-director Kate Coyer explains that “if the future of the internet is to be that of a free and open platform, civil society must be at the forefront of internet policy making. But communication policy can be overwhelmed by complex technical protocol, corporate and government interests, and a lack of civil society capacity to take on communication policy advocacy. The aim of this course is then to help build that capacity and provide opportunities for exchanging knowledge, collaboration and sharing of different experiences and perspectives.”

Tweets about the course used the hashtag #cmdssun15 and are also available at Storify here.