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We went to MozFest and all we came back with were new ways to contribute to the future of the web

Your OpenMedia team’s report back on our experience at the Mozilla Festival, the open Internet conference.

Several members of your OpenMedia team had a chance to attend and lead sessions at MozFest this year in London UK. Mozilla Foundation’s signature event is a great example of how holding interactive spaces can seed world-changing projects and facilitate powerful conversations that all communities need to have.

Here’s how we experienced MozFest this year  


Mozfest began by saying that the Internet is sick: censorship, surveillance, harassment and abuse. There’s a lot that needs to be built up. But the great thing about the festival is that it’s a place to meet people and learn from each other about how we can do better and make it better.
There were some truly inspiring speakers - highlights being the incredible Zeynep Tufekci on how Facebook’s algorithm can hide breaking news and promote fake stories, and Ashe Dryden on the ethics of free labour in the open source movement. All of the speaker series are short, powerful and well worth watching - which you can do here.

I have always believed that change starts with education and for me the highlight of the weekend was attending ground-breaking workshop on building an ethical IT/Computer Science curriculum. Jeannie Crowley, who led the session, is an IT teacher writing a course that teaches computing through an ethics framework. We worked on brainstorming modules and how to expand and improve on the existing ones – things like studying how algorithms implement bias whilst building your own, or talking about how data can be reused for unexpected reasons. (More here:

I also co-led two sessions about the Save the Link campaign and copyright reform. One with our friends at EDRi where together we devised a ‘Model EU’ game to teach participants how the EU actually works (and one where you can put pressure on decision-makers to create change).

The second session was on the Save the Link threats map, and dived into a deep discussion on the existential threats to the link: what to do about Facebook and Instagram policies that punish or don’t allow linking, keeping us locked into platforms. It’s a big debate, and we hope to use it to inspire a grassroots campaign in there for the near future.


We know the Internet can be used as tool to empower everyday people and reimagine democracy, or it can be turned into a tool for censorship, surveillance and top down control. It’s exciting to work on digital policy issues because the Internet is perhaps the first medium in history to have adopted a critical mass of open participation from its origins. That means we can use the Internet itself to shape what it becomes.

The unique participatory attribute of the web is one reason why OpenMedia operates primarily as a civic engagement organization, rather than a traditional digital rights, human rights, or consumer rights outfit. We believe that engaging users in actively shaping the future of the Internet is an essential ingredient in ensuring it’s a platform that works for the public interest and not just government or business interests. When we have new ideas about how the web should work, we can't just hope that they will be taken on by government institutions and hope that they will somehow withstand the pressure of lobbyists – we have to act to ensure our digital policy works for all of us.

So it will be no surprise that I spent most of my time in the “Fuelling the Movement” stream at MozFest. There are way too many great sessions to mention here but I really enjoyed one in particular that zeroed in on specific campaigns and civic engagement tactics.

I also had the opportunity to lead my own session on Building a Shared Campaign Tool Platform for Digital Rights Campaigners through a collaboration with OpenMedia, New/Mode and some great support from folks at Mozilla.

Financial and volunteer resources often amass during key battles to produce an effective online advocacy tools.  But these tools can lack a lasting development plan to maintain them for the next battle. In my session I laid out a vision for an open source, embeddable toolkit that I hope will provide users and organizations with an accessible set of tools to empower others working to safeguard the open Internet. The input and feedback we received was extremely helpful and has already helped shape the direction of the engagement platform. I was reminded that while technology can be helpful on its own, to really be useful we should bake in engagement best practices and modes of collaborative networked-campaigning.

MozFest organizers stressed that they would like projects and discussions to continue and grow after the event. I’m happy to report that I’m working with several people I connected with at Mozfest and I believe together we’ll make some important contributions to fuel the movement.


I had heard that the best part of MozFest was the conversations — that session leads were great, but that it was the chatting that happened with participants that was the best part.

This turned out to be very much the case. My first MozFest, it was chaotic and weird, but most of all inspiring. There were larger talks like those by Chris Soghoian, a policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, who spoke about the growing digital divide between those that can afford devices that offer encryption and those that can't, and from Wikimedia executive director Katherine Maher who highlighted the importance of inclusion online, and how without it we've seen only a small percentage of the world's knowledge actually catalogued on the online encyclopedia. You can find both talks here.

Then, there were the different spaces of the festival — from Journalism to MozEx (art exhibits) to Fuel The Movement, a space to focus on how to create and build an open Internet.

I was part of the Demystify the Web space, which brought together people working on how to read, write and participate online. This included librarians, a large group committed to what we can do with ultra-fast Internet speeds and my favourite session, put on by two Firefox developers where they showcased all the new tools they're playing with for the browser. (Though, a close second was a session put on by Noah Swartz, a technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, where the group talked about how to reform laws affecting Internet users and advocates in the U.S.)

My session, Crowdsourcing the next Gigabit Cities: An Engagement Platform for Municipal Broadband, was about how in many communities citizens are banding together to build their own Internet networks. You can check out my slides at

Final reflections

If you have a chance to make to MozFest in the future we couldn’t recommend it more! Multiple OpenMedia staff have participated in the past, and we look forward to continuing to have conversations with leaders in the space – and bringing that knowledge home to our colleagues, collaborators and community.

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