COFACE Families Europe: Be the change – Take back the internet!

Today, as it has been for many years now, is the Safer Internet Day; a privileged moment to raise awareness about online safety and take action to create a better internet for all. #SID2017

The theme of the 2017 edition is “Be the change: unite for a better internet”. This will no doubt be interpreted in many ways, and Families Europe will try to shed some light on what sort of actions are needed to change the internet for the better.

Some may interpret the theme as putting focus on digital literacy and digital etiquette, looking at ensuring that all internet users, big and small, behave in an ethical way online, take responsibility for protecting their privacy, refrain from engaging in cyberbullying, trolling or other reprehensible online behaviour.

But Families Europe would like to put the focus on actions which contribute to shaping the online environment for the better. As Families Europe has already underlined on many occasions throughout its speech at the Safer Internet Forum in Luxembourg or through its conference on Digitalisation last November in Berlin, many problematic situations online result from the online context and more specifically, because of the underlying business models of the internet. Security breaches, exploitation of private data, child safety online, all take a back seat to maximising profits and expanding business models built around targeted advertising.

So this year, Families Europe wants to collectively identify the real ways in which internet users can make an impact. Undoubtedly, posting a nice comment on a social network in the face of bullying (or as it’s called, counter-speech) is helpful. But even more so is the engagement in contributing to collective initiatives financed directly by users and designed in the interest of users. One of the strongest examples is the famous open encyclopedia Wikipedia which survives only thanks to people’s donations and thanks to the contributing community which helps draft and improve the articles, thus promoting access to knowledge across the globe!

But there are many more initiatives which bypass the governance structures of the current internet and escape the advertising business model that are worth mentioning:

  • Qwant is an online search engine which operates under strict privacy considerations. The same applies to DuckDuckGo. If you are interested in alternative search engines that respect your privacy, don’t hesitate to search for other alternatives!
  • Open sources software developed by a dedicated community which bring all internet users tools for expressing their creativity in an open and free way. Examples include Gimp, Libre Office, Blender, and of course, the Linux operating system. Take some time to get familiar with the open source software available for you and your family.
  • Learn about the decentralised web and ways in which you can host and access content online without having to purchase a website domain name or a cloud service online. Many online services are becoming available in a decentralised way such as Diaspora which is a decentralised social networking platform.

Be the change, learn about and use the online tools and platforms which respect your digital rights and embody the true meaning of democracy by allowing you to contribute in a meaningful way and change the internet for the better!

Full article.