Happy 2017, everyone! Here at OpenMedia, our office has that familiar hum again, as our team arrive back from holiday vacations re-energized and up to tackle the challenges of the new year. I know we all really appreciated the chance for some downtime after a hectic December rounded off an especially busy year for us.
Already it’s clear that 2017 has lots in store — on privacy, affordable access, and free expression it’s shaping up to be a make or break year for our digital rights. As a community, we’ll need to pull out all the stops over the next twelve months to safeguard the free and open Internet we hold dear.
But before things really start to heat up, this seems like an ideal time to catch our breath and look back at some of the highlights of 2016 — one of the most amazing years this community has ever experienced. These examples of how you all helped save the Internet last year are in inspirational reminder to me — and our whole team — of just what our community can achieve when we work together.
So without further ado, here are my (highly subjective!) top 10 ways you helped save the Internet in 2016:
Thousands of you spoke up against the link tax: In the European Union, over 6,000 of you have used our Message-your-MEP tool to send a message directly to your representatives in the European Parliament as part of our Save the Link campaign. The link tax is a reckless proposal from the European Commission that would allow publishing giants to impose costly new fees for sharing brief snippets of content, hurting people’s right to access and share information. The link tax is being considered by MEPs right now so, if you’ve yet to do so, be sure to speak up here!
You made sure we could defend Free Expression at the Supreme Court: For the first time, OpenMedia intervened to defend online free expression in a crucial legal case at the Supreme Court of Canada — and we would never have been able to do this without your support. Our intervention argued that free expression and the core mechanisms of the Internet should be explicitly considered by the Court when it comes to restricting access to online content, and that the Internet should be a protected medium under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We expect a final ruling in the coming months, and you can learn more about why this is so important — not just in Canada but around the world — by checking out our FAQ.
You stood up for strong privacy rules in huge numbers: When Canada’s government finally launched its long-awaited public consultation on privacy and Bill C-51 (the much-loathed spying bill passed under Stephen Harper), we knew we could count on you to seize the moment. But we were blown away by just how many of you took the time to submit detailed point-by-point feedback on the essential privacy issues raised by the consultation, using our Save Our Security tool to call for strong privacy rules to keep all Canadians safe from surveillance. Many of you also showed up at the in-person events organized by both government and Parliament, and it was clear from the events we attended that MPs are getting the message. We’ve expecting the government to publish its proposals in response to all your feedback in the coming months…stay tuned!
We streamed your TPP comments on a giant Jumbotron outside official parliamentary hearings: We’ve been campaigning against the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s extreme copyright rules for years, so when the Canadian Parliament decided to hold official hearings in Vancouver, we leapt into action. With your help we erected an enormous Jumbotron right outside the hotel where the hearings were taking place, displaying a compilation of your comments, images, videos, memes, and all sorts of media from our community while the hearings took place. Check out the photos right here.
And that’s not all you did to help stop the TPP: In March, we created and launched a powerful new tool to enable Canadians to speak out about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We’d built “Message your Representative” tools before — but this was the first that sent a message to multiple recipients (government, parliament, and local MPs) for maximum impact. A whopping total of over 28,000 people used the French and English versions of the tool over the course of the year, and we’re grateful to all the groups we worked with on this project, particularly Council of Canadians, Stand, and SumOfUs. Stay tuned for our upcoming TPP Citizens’ Report wrapping up what people had to say about the TPP and what lessons decision-makers around the world need to learn as a result.
That’s still not all you did to stop the TPP: As if that wasn’t enough, hundreds of you turned out for our Rock Against the TPP concert in Toronto, which we organized in partnership with our good friends at Fight for the Future. The concert saw legendary Pittsburgh punk band Anti-Flag, Bronx-based hip hop duo Rebel Diaz, and many more take to the stage to rally opposition to the secretive deal. Thanks to everyone who showed up on the night, and who supported us by spreading the word online!
You helped us shine a global media spotlight on Netflix’s anti-privacy antics: When Netflix announced it was cracking down on essential privacy tools by blocking VPN users from its service, we swung into action with a petition calling on them to change course. Over 50,000 of you spoke up, ensuring that we made media waves right across the world, from Wired Magazine to TorrentFreak to this coverage in Arabic, Norwegian, and Dutch. You even helped us fund a large roving billboard outside Netflix HQ, and we’ll continue to keep up the pressure until Netflix changes course. (You can add your voice here to support us.)
60,000 of you told the CRTC you want an end to data caps: Canadians experience some of the lowest data caps and highest overage charges in the industrialized world — so when the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced a hearing into zero-rating, net neutrality, and data caps, we knew you wouldn’t let the opportunity go to waste. Your support meant that when we testified at the hearings in November, we were standing on the shoulders of over 60,000 of you who joined the call to end data caps, preserve net neutrality, and ban anti-consumer practices like zero-rating. The CRTC is expected to issue its decision in the coming months, so let’s hope they’ve listened!
You opened Canada’s fibre networks to affordable indie providers: One of the big highlights of 2015 in Canada was a landmark CRTC ruling that smaller, affordable, indie Internet providers should be able to offer next-generation fibre Internet services. Sadly, telecom giant Bell decided to fight this decision tooth-and-nail, filing an appeal urging the government to strike down the original CRTC decision and preserve Big Telecom’s fibre monopoly. Over 80,000 of you spoke out through our Internet Emergency action, and Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains listened, rejecting Bell’s appeal in May in a crucial win for customer choice. Thanks for speaking out!
You helped win reliable, world-class Internet for all Canadians: Saving the best for last, you wrapped up 2016 in style with a truly historic win at the CRTC, which ruled that high-speed Internet is a basic service that everyone must have access to. Nearly 50,000 of you spoke up and it’s clear that the CRTC was listening — the decision is a game-changer, especially for people living in rural and underserved communities where Internet access is either unavailable or unaffordable. We’ll be keeping up the pressure in 2017 to ensure this vision becomes a reality and that after years of lagging behind, Canada can finally set a positive example for countries all over the world.
Well, I think that’s not a bad record for 12 months — and, believe me, the above highlights are just some of what you managed to achieve last year. If I tried to write an exhaustive list, this blog would probably end up 10,000 words long — but do let us know in the comments what some of the highlights of 2016 were for you!
Last but not least, while it’s heart-warming to look back at our successes, this blog serves a serious purpose too. In 2017 we’re going to face some of the biggest challenges we’ve ever faced together as a community — and I hope we can all take inspiration from past successes to steel us for the really big fights to come.
Last year you proved that we can move mountains when we stand together — and this year, we’ll need every ounce of that mountain-moving ability to succeed! Make sure you don’t miss a moment of the action by following us on Facebook and Twitter, and by signing up to our weekly Internet Insider newsletter.
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Image: Marie Aspiazu