Internet Society Estonia Chapter was actually founded back in October 2010 as NGO Estonian Internet Community (in Estonian: “MTÜ Eesti Interneti Kogukond”) to address problems associated with the .ee domain reform. Thanks to Estonian electronic ID-card and e-government, the founder Elver Loho was able to gather 22 founding members from all over Estonia purely online over Skype, who then signed the founding documents digitally.
Our first year of activity was somewhat hectic and unproductive as we were all still learning how to run an NGO and how to achieve what we wanted to achieve. At the end of 2011 we stumbled on a topic that would pretty much define us for the public: ACTA.
In early 2011, with the help of several of our friends, we organized a successful media campaign against ACTA followed by simultaneous anti-ACTA protests in our biggest cities Tallinn and Tartu, attended by around 3000 people in total, making it the biggest peaceful public protests since the Singing Revolution of the late 80s and early 90s, which helped end Soviet occupation in our country. Considering that the weather in Tallinn was -15 degrees Celsius and in Tartu -20 degrees Celsius, this was a great achievement. Estonians really, really care about their freedom on the internet.
What made our protest even more unique was that while usually such protests can be framed in terms of people vs politicians or people+opposition vs coalition, then in our case only a few members of the government and the coalition were active proponents of ACTA, so we did the unthinkable: we got well-known and active members of the coalition speaking out against ACTA at our protests, speaking against their own government’s position on the subject.
Just a couple of days before the protests, the prime minister had spoken out in front of the parliament in a now-famous speech exhorting the good sides of ACTA and claiming that those opposing it had eaten “suspicious seeds”, should wear tinfoil on their heads, and take a relaxing jacuzzi. This gave our protests a valuable set of unifying symbols: people were eating various seeds, nearly everyone was wearing tinfoil hats (so much that an actual shortage was reported by the stores), and someone even carried a bathtub full of hot water to the Tartu event, stripped naked, and got inside. Some journalists have begun referring to the events as the “tinfoil revolution” or “fooliumrevolutsioon.”
The anti-ACTA protests were followed by negotiations with the minister of foreign affairs and with the parliament on Toompea, eventually reaching the situation where it would have been impossible to get enough votes to ratify ACTA in the parliament. As a result the signing of this controversial treaty was halted, leaving Estonia as one of only five countries in the European Union, which refrained from even signing the treaty.
In summer 2012 we brought renewed public pressure on the people responsible for the controversial .ee domain reform, eventually causing a change of management at the new .ee managing organization Estonian Internet Foundation.
In late 2012 we were heavily involved in negotiations on Toompea hill at the parliament building and elsewhere to implement Open Data principles in Estonian legislation. We succeeded: all future government databases with non-confidential data must be open to the people in a machine-readable format for free. All such databases already in existence will be made free and open by 2015. After substantial lobbying the law was passed without a single vote against it in December during a long and conflict-filled filibuster by the opposition parties.
As a result our organization was voted the NGO of the Year with the awards ceremony held at the Estonian parliament building. A few days later the Open Data law was voted the best law of the year. Around that time we also held our general assembly to become the Estonia Chapter of the Internet Society.
Estonia is unique in both the government and the people viewing Internet as something that is absolutely crucial for the continued success and development of our country. Unlike many other issues, internet and technology have not been politicized by Estonian political parties. Most of the time, it has rather been approached in a sensible and impartial manner by all sides of the government.
Because there are only 1.4 million of us, the people and those in power are actually very close to one another, making it easy to influence law and governance as long as one has got good, well-researched arguments and is a rational person willing to sit down and discuss issues in a sensible manner.
Part of Estonian foreign policy is promoting internet freedom and casting Estonia as the example of all things done right in e-governance and internet, so there is substantial interest in new laws and solutions, which would help Estonia look good on the international scene.
Quite possibly the reason why there hasn’t been an Internet Society chapter in Estonia before is that the government has gotten so many things right in the past, there was really no need for that. When the government eventually got something wrong, we organized en masse and created positive change, eventually emerging as a good partner to the government and the parliament.
Our key issues for the future currently include sensible copyright reform and instituting full net neutrality across the European Union. In the latter we would very much appreciate the support and cooperation of everyone all over Europe.
You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
How to Support Us
International supporters can currently help us in the following ways:
- Donations of any size are very helpful. Currently we only accept wire transfers. SWIFT/BIC HABAEE2X and IBAN EE64 2200 2210 5073 1645 (Address of the organization as needed by some banks: Hipodroomi tn 30, Tartu linn, Tartu maakond, 51011, Estonia.)
All donations will be used in a responsible manner to support the organization’s activities and goals.