On 16 December, digital [x] organised a webinar about the effects of the Paris attacks on digital rights. We looked at the impact of the attacks on the current political debate and how that illustrates the tension between security and freedoms online.
This was our very first webinar, and we did not use any special webinar tools – just mumble, etherpad and some online slides. As planned, it all took two hours: introduction, presentation, discussions in small groups and a plenary at the very end.
An analysis of the impact of the terrorist attacks on digital rights in Europe was presented by Julian Hauser, a member of digital [x]. The slides can be found here. We looked at the goals of the proposed laws and security measures, how they restrict online freedoms and whether they even achieve their goal of increased security (hint: they don’t).
We had the opportunity to welcome Cécile Germain from Jeunes Écologistes (French Young Greens) as a speaker on the current situation in France. France is going through a lot of changes as a result of the terrorist attacks and many of these are posing grave threats to digital rights and civil liberties. Among the most affected are young activists, in particular when it comes to protests and other public actions.
The complexity of the relationship between security and freedom sparked an intense and lively debate among participants. In small group discussions it became clear that some people viewed security and freedom as necessarily in tension with each other while others argued that one complements the other.
We concluded the webinar by gathering ideas on how to change politicians’ and the general public’s perception that security is essential while freedom is only of secondary concern. We touched upon our irrational perception of danger and the fact that it’s impossible to assess intelligence agencies’ efficacy, as well as many other topics.
Participants commented on the topic of the webinar being both important as well as complex and elusive. The time frame of the webinar was only enough for a quick introduction and didn’t allow going into in-depth discussions. To improve our understanding of the topic, we want to dedicate more time to this conversation in the future. If you want to be part of that and other relevant discussions on European digital rights, you are very welcome to join our working group!