Q4/2018 - Annual Conference of the Freedom Online Coalition (FOC)

Berlin, 28 - 30 November 2018

The Freedom Online Coalition (FOC), which was founded in 2011 with support of the Dutch government, held its annual conference in Berlin at the end of November 2018. The FOC is a partnership of 30, mainly western, governments, striving to advance human rights in cyber space. It works closely with non-state organisations, in particular from the field of human rights. The FOC publishes so-called “Joint Statements” on specific topical issues, which are an enriching input to international discussions. A 30-member advisory council assists the Coalition in identifying topics and working out documents.

In 2018, Germany was chair of the FOC. The Berlin conference was attended by about 300 high-ranking experts from nearly 50 countries. The keynote was delivered by Germany’s Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas. In his speech he addressed the new threats cyber space poses to human rights by fake news, hate speech, cyber attacks, censorship and mass surveillance by the state. He criticised authoritarian and libertarian models of the Internet and advocated enhanced application of the rule of law in the further development of the Internet.

Under German chairmanship, two new FOC Joint Statements were published on censorship on the Internet and on the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference. Originally, four FOC Joint Statements had been planned (on censorship on the Internet, the digital divide, cyber security and state-sponsored obstruction of media freedom and human rights activities). Even though the Berlin conference can be considered a successful meeting, the future of the Coalition remains open. FOC chairmanship of 2019, for instance, for which Ghana was a candidate, has not yet been settled.

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