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Internet Freedom Festival 2017 Reflections

| By: Sandra Ordóñez

In this month’s community post, we’re taking time to reflect on the Internet Freedom Festival, the global internet freedom unconference event held this year from March 6-10 in Valencia, Spain.

The 2017 edition of the Internet Freedom Festival was one for the record books: registration was forced to close down early for the first time ever, as 1,400+ attendees from 110+ countries signed up. A community-driven event, the 2017 IFF Fellows shaped the billing to follow the needs and priorities of the people working most closely on the issues at hand. 220+ sessions and workshops were held on topics like the internet freedom community, tools and technology, and policy & advocacy.

The growth of this incredible gathering is reflective of a commensurate build-up in momentum among the global internet freedom community. As more and more people committed to upholding free expression and fighting online censorship get involved, these ideals and philosophies evolve to become more wide-reaching, inclusive, and effective.

But as some things change, some things stay the same. Glitter, mostly.

Here’s what some IFF attendees had to say about the event:

“I would say that IFF has given me a safe space where I can speak my mind and heart and connect with the actual community working on ground!” - Nighat Dad, Executive Director, Digital Rights Foundation, and former DIFP Fellow

“IFF has been one of my favorite conferences. I have enjoyed the space, the talks, discussions and seeing old friends while making new ones! Really thankful for having been invited as DIF fellow and given this wonderful opportunity.” - Arzu Geybulla, freelance journalist from Azerbaijan and IFF DIF Fellow

“I gained a deeper understanding of the importance of data, its collection, interpretation, and visualisation in understanding digital censorship. In addition, great collaborations are on the horizon as a result of the meetings I had. IFF was also a great place to listen, learn, absorb, reflect, which are all essential for my growth.” - Arthur Gwagwa, Zimbabwean lawyer and researcher, IFF DIF Fellow, and former ICFP Fellow

“Our session at the festival was an opportunity for us to listen directly to people who use our software, to hear from folks from Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and beyond. Even if we had a bag of money and a private jet, we could not have collected so much valuable feedback on our own. Thanks to IFF, the organizers, and most especially, the participants and contributors!” - Keith Hiatt, Vice President, Benetech

“The IFF clearly is one of the most important places for development of internet freedom theory and practice. The allowing environment and community driven content allows for progressive and creative discussions like no other forum.” - Marcin de Kaminski, Policy Specialist - Freedom of Expression / ICT, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)

“The Internet Freedom Festival, is unlike any other conference focusing on the fight against censorship and surveillance due to its spotlight on diversity of ethnicity, region, gender, & thought that’s represented. IFF is also probably one of the most inclusive and celebratory events in the space, raising up the individuals and their various projects/disciplines.” - Matteo of CryptoHarlem

For a few days, the IFF connects passionate individuals from around the world face-to-face, forgoing the usual screen-to-screen interactions we all know so well to connect on a more intimate, human level. This facilitates learning, friendships, inspiration, a free flow of ideas, and - ultimately - a stronger, more resilient network of folks fighting for a free and open internet. Humans connecting with humans, working hard to ensure our digital networks can reflect those same core traits we champion - openness, freedom, and inclusivity.