Stockholm Internet Forum blacklists Edward Snowden from conference
The Stockholm Internet Forum held its third annual conference from May 26th through the 28th, generating a good deal of productive discussion on the state of the web, net neutrality and what comes next for the average citizen advocating for Internet freedom. Unfortunately, most of the press the event received was to point out what was missing – that is, an acknowledged failure to invite famous whistle blowers like Edward Snowden, Glen Greenwald and Wikileaks.
Why SFI prevented whistle blowers from attending
The SFI appeared to cover an impressive amount of ground otherwise – topics for individual discussion included "Freedom from fear on the internet is possible: applying rule of law online" and "Big Data: taking privacy and data protection seriously" were listed on the conference's website, along with big-name panelists. However, the omission of leading whistle blowing figures is certainly a bold move on the part of the Forum's organizers, and one that was addressed directly. Olof Ehrenkrona, advisor to the Swedish foreign minister, made a statement on the absent figures at the event according to online news outlet RT.
"We've seen it as important to not to look into the whistle blowing process as such or to revelations as such," he said. "What we believe we should do is to discuss how we can find solutions in order to protect human rights in an environment where surveillance is a reality."
The response of the public and media was quite different – though whistle blowers were still allowed to engage with the discussions going on by streaming and social media, few took advantage of the invitation. On one hand, this could be a calculated and terrific marketing move on the part of the SIF, which The Digital Journal pointed out faces a great deal of competition in the arena of large internet freedom and cybersecurity meet-ups going on worldwide. Writer Ken Hanly noted the UN-sanctioned Internet Governance Forum, Europe EuroDIG and the New-York based Personal Democracy forum as eclipsing forces that would increase the need for the SIF to raise its public profile.
Whatever the motivation, excluding hackers and whistle blowers from the internet freedom discussion doesn't accurately represent the full spectrum of controversy and viewpoints that the SIF could benefit from putting on display. In all likelihood, conferences such as these wouldn't have begun had it not been for information provided by whistle blowers, making the absence of a formal invitation to major figures all the more intriguing.