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In late 2019, two European conferences on digital rights and online safety were held in the space of one week, the Safer Internet Forum (Brussels) and the Click Off Cyber Violence (Ljubljana). Nordic activists Thordis Elva and Emma Holten were booked to speak at both of them. Since the world of digital rights activists is small, they were acquainted since years before. Now, they listened to each other deliver more or less the same speech twice in one week. It ignited a longing to do more than deliver speeches about the change that needs to take place, and join forces with other specialists to ensure that it does. With the expert knowledge of policy reform, research, law, media literacy and civil society embodied by María Rún Bjarnadóttir, Moa Bladini, Milla Mølgaard and Ida Östensson, what started as a frustrated conversation by a conference coffee machine resulted in the founding of NORDREF.

The timing was both catastrophic and perfect. The unprecedented events of 2020 has made us more dependent on the internet for work and play than ever before. Given than the internet is a borderless, international venue, it calls for borderless, international approaches to ensure that it works for all of us – and doesn't become yet another place where opportunities are unequally divided. 

Kicking off an international organisation is no small feat. Fortunately, the Nordic countries have a long history of collaboration (after an even longer history of conquering one another), with the Nordic Council founded back in 1952. NORDREF aims to be another venue where the Nordic countries can exchange best practices and further their shared goals of openness, democracy and equality – this time online. Read our vision here.



The Nordic Digital Right and Equality Foundation was founded in the unprecedented year of 2020, when the Covid19 pandemic underlined how important the internet is to our economies as well as our social lives - and also how crucial it is that everyone is safe to work, play and express themselves online. Safeguarding those rights is challenging for many reasons. When it comes to digital violations, online jurisdiction can be unclear. In other cases, it's unclear if legal responsibility is with users, hosts or platforms. Law enforcement is often lacking in technical know-how, and offenders can be hard to trace. Last but not least, ignorance about digital rights can make it hard for victims to determine when they've been targeted, and in some cases even for perpetrators to know when they've crossed the line between protected speech and hate speech, to name an example. A multi-disciplinary approach is needed to ensure that the internet is the breeding ground for democracy, diversity and global dialogue it has the potential to be.


Let us know if you or your organisation is interested in partnering with us, and watch this space to see our progress. 

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