I didn’t expect the entire parliament to say yes, including the governor. I was overwhelmed. It’s been a little slower than I hoped, but we passed the source protection law this spring and we’re working on a freedom of information act that should pass in September. In times of crisis, damaging emergency laws are pushed through and tend to stick. We wanted to use this same time frame to create good. If we wanted to start a tax haven, we would look at all the best laws around the world in order to create secrecy. We did the same thing, but for transparency. The laws that are the backbone of IMMI are history protection from France; source protection from Belgium; freedom of information from Norway, Estonia, and Sweden; libel tourism from the states of Florida, California, and New York; communication protection from Norway; and the whistleblowing laws were from the United States—but those laws have proven too weak under political pressure, so we’re looking at other countries for laws that function the way they were meant to.
You’re trying to get the rest of Europe to adopt these laws. How has the reaction been from the EU?
Very positive. Many members of the European parliament have suggested using Iceland as a standard for upgrading laws into the reality we’re living in, where information doesn’t have borders. We’re seeing this freedom of information movement develop through legal means and through what WikiLeaks and others are doing. Organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and ACLU; they have special legal teams that are only focusing on civic rights online.
The reason why this is on the top of the debate everywhere is because it’s obvious that something is not right. And something needs to be done. Here is a great need and that’s why IMMI has gotten so much attention. For example, I’m doing interviews basically everyday with different sorts of media from around the world.
We founded an institution which is the International Modern Media Initiative. We have an international legal team that is also ready to advise other nations if they want to ask for it and the hope is that we can help.
We’re living in such interesting times because there’s been such shifts in perception and awareness about many things. There is much greater access to people and information now then ever before and then we go into another whole big debate that needs to happen right now, and that is our civic rights in cyber space.
You had a personal experience with that this winter.
In early January I got a letter from Twitter, saying we took a subpoena that was issued to us to the court to unseal it for you. And in the subpoena the Department of Justice is requesting all my back end information from Twitter, my IP number, all my personal stuff, my private Twitter messages. The subpoena ordered Twitter to hand it over within three days without my knowledge, which I found to be absolutely crazy, because I haven’t done anything criminal towards US authorities.
So did they end up giving your information?
Twitter managed to stop it and I was fortunate enough to get, since this is such a special case, free lawyers from both the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU. We parliamentarians are constantly urged to use social media to be in better contact with our voters. I have to rely on the social media sites to have my back, and it might not always be in their interest.
What US authorities did with my case opened up a whole can of worms. But at the same time I’m thankful because it raises awareness about how little rights we have with our social media content in the US, our emails, everything.
Have you been charged with anything?