Human Rights

How digital activists got the European Parliament to vote their way on net neutrality

joemcnameeRecently, the European Parliament voted to stop internet service providers from charging for preferential access to their networks, something known as a “net-neutrality” law. The legislative proposal is also notable because of the five-year long campaign that preceded it. We spoke with Joe McNamee, the Executive Director of European Digital Rights, a Brussels-based advocacy group, about this campaign. He said that main reason behind the success of the campaign was the co-ordination between professional Brussels-based activists and the people around Europe who were mobilised and empowered to speak to their parliamentarians.

“It is very difficult be successful as a civil society organisation if you rely exclusively on professional activism in the capital because you need the weight of the populace behind you and  you will never get anywhere if you just rely on public outcries because the compromises that are made between politicians will not necessarily reflect the key nuances of what you’re trying to deliver. You really need to have both professional activists and a wider campaign across society.”

IPHe added that digital activists needed to develop a more sophisticated response to the public relations machinery of the telecom companies. “There is a need to engage the press in a far more efficient way because the big lobbies have their press lobbies already in place. There is a risk that if a misleading version of events is going through the press, that you’re not going to have as much of a public outcry.”