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[Op-Ed] Like Island, Like Party: How Kim Dotcom's Internet Party Resonates In Iceland

BY Birgitta Jonsdottir | Monday, October 6 2014

The Internet Party has a simple but grand agenda.

The Internet has given us new connections and led to the fastest innovation in human history, for better or for worse. Millions of people have a found a voice through the Web and a global audience to listen. The Internet has improved the lives of countless people, exposed corruption and helped to develop innovative solutions to the world’s most challenging problems. It is our last free, open space but it is under attack.

Governments around the world are trying to “turn off” the Internet, stretch the boundaries of their surveillance programs, criminalize sharing and develop firewalls that censor much more than just porn and gambling. We live in an era of cyber war, of witch-hunts that often target the activists, journalists and whistleblowers at the forefront of protecting a free Web and a free society.

Edward Snowden is the most prominent example of someone who is currently being pursued by authorities for defending our democratic freedoms but there are many others. Take Peter Sunde. He campaigned for the Pirate Party in Finland but is now in jail for his work on The Pirate Bay, the media sharing site.

And then there's Kim Dotcom and the Internet Party that he founded in New Zealand, after 77 police officers, in two helicopters, stormed his home where he lived with his three children and wife who was seven months pregnant at the time. Dotcom was arrested for violating copyrights with his sharing service, Megaupload.

The raid roused the sympathies of New Zealanders for Dotcom who explained in interviews that he thought there was much more to the raids than just Megaupload.

Legally, Dotcom should have left New Zealand several months ago. But while he fought deportation, startling details about the raid began to emerge. Laws had been broken, which New Zealand authorities now admit.

The case against Kim Dotcom highlights key aspects of the war on the Internet: copyright and the right to private data. These policies are at the core of the Pirate Party's platform. One of the biggest problems we face today is that legislators lack understanding of how technology works in practice, as well as an understanding of online culture.

This is why we must get more people who support an open Internet into the political system, whether by building our own party platforms or by lobbying traditional parties to understand the consequences of the laws they are trying to introduce.

I co-founded the Icelandic Pirate Party and we got 5 percent of the vote last year winning three seats out of 63. I also helped those from other countries build on the essential elements of the Pirate Party's principles. I follow with great interest the development of similar groups, such as the Internet Party, which stood for election in New Zealand on September 20th but failed to gain a seat in Parliament.

Coming from an island that has a lot in common with New Zealand, I believe that the reason why the Internet Party did not succeed this time around was possibly conflating Dotcom’s personal situation with the greater issues at play. While his Moment of Truth panel event on government surveillance was impressive, it was a mistake to link it with his own story. All the focus of the important revelations went to Dotcom but not to the real story of mass surveillance of Kiwi citizens.

This misstep is a shame because it seems to me like the Internet Party is doing just about everything right on the policy level, which are well thought out and also in line with the values of the global Pirate Party movement.

I'll be sure to remix and reuse parts of their policy in my own work in Parliament here in Iceland. The Internet Party’s presentation of its proposal, such as copyright and access to research, reminds me in a way of how we designed the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), which is a set of proposals aiming to make our country a safe haven for freedom of information, expression, speech and privacy and to also set a new standard for other countries. IMMI was developed based on best practices from around the world and on June 2010, was unanimously adopted by Parliament. While it is not the full legislation, adopting the proposal allows Parliament to begin writing bills to amend 13 relevant laws according to the IMMI standards. Getting these laws changed will lead to a radical improvement to our democracy.

Similarly, Kim Dotcom’s Internet Party has a simple but grand agenda. It is feasible and must be implemented.

Birgitta Jonsdottir is a Representative of the Pirate Party in Iceland.

This article originally appeared in Norwegian on the news site, NRK.