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Democracies across the world today feel vulnerable to a diverse range of threats, from violent extremism to environmental devastation, economic crises, cybercrime and shifting global power dynamics (notably, the growth of China and Russia’s recent foreign policy). There is an acute and growing tension between the concern for safety and the protection of our freedoms.

Since 2001, openDemocracy has probed the passionate and challenging debates that arise from this tension. Now, we are partnering with the World Forum for Democracy (WFD), held in Strasbourg on 18-20 November, to push these questions still further. Read on»

Worried about the return of fascism? Six things a dissenter can do in 2016

Commentary misses the point: the legitimacy of Trump or Le Pen comes not from the sudden appeal of a new brand of right-wing populism, but their legitimisation by mainstream politics.

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A threat to whom? Some implications of the rise of “extremist rhetoric”

When students can be criminalised for their political views; and the boycotting of arms companies is constructed as tantamount to terrorism, we need to ask questions about how we got here.

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Rich Conversations at the World Forum for Democracy 2015 in Strasbourg (2)

The World Forum for Democracy 2015 ran 'lab sessions' on innovative initiatives connected to the Forum's key themes. Rich Conversations emerges from those sessions. On dance.

Rich Conversations at the World Forum for Democracy 2015 in Strasbourg (1)

The World Forum for Democracy 2015 ran 'lab sessions' on innovative initiatives connected to the Forum's key themes. Rich Conversations emerges from those sessions. On hate speech.

Anti-Muslim hatred from the margins to the mainstream

Whatever local Muslim communities do to remind society that these extremists don’t represent them, there are media commentators, as well as right-wing politicians, constantly fostering a narrative of collective responsibility.

Beyond powerlessness

If we want to escape from our situation of powerlessness and anxiety, we must re-examine our relationship to the political, and strive to produce new types of political practice. Français.

Just another ‘black box’? First thoughts on Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council

Twitter announced the creation of a body to deal with hate speech on the network. This approach, however, is more problematic than adequate.

Freedom and control in the surveillance age (Part 2)

The Strasbourg Forum met soon after the Paris attacks, at a time of fear. Under such conditions, we ask in this week's feature: can our democracies resist the marginalisation of dissent?

Human rights at the World Forum for Democracy 2015

The Council for Europe's commissioner for human rights warns that Europe’s new security-oriented turn restricts fundamental human rights, a success for terrorists who want us to abandon our lifestyle and live in fear. Short interview.

“Why the movement against hate speech matters to me and what I plan to do about it…”

Our weapon is to spread love speech, encourage argumentation during debates, look at the stories rather than the statistics, be human, be vulnerable and be an example.

Instead of fighting against, let’s fight for

A boomerang of good stories is what we need in our unhealthy culture.

Brazil's digital protests spell trouble on the street

The question now is whether citizens will wake up only after it's too late. Despite the model Marco Civil, the country might well need to fall apart some more. Español

Emotion and protest in Turkey: what happened on 19 January, 2007?

Those gathering spontaneously after the assassination of Hrant Dink have been part of the Gezi movement — in a non-violent way, manifesting their desire to be the Subjects of their own lives.

Book review: The Egyptians

Jack Shenker's The Egyptians: A Radical Story is a must read for anyone who wants to understand how and why Egypt's revolution happened – and why it continues.

‘Policed multiculturalism’ and predicting disaster

Counter-radicalisation in France draws on British and Dutch policies developed in the mid-2000s. It extends police action to areas of diversity management such as education, religion and social policy. With what results? Interview.

Worried about the return of fascism? Six things a dissenter can do in 2016

Commentary misses the point: the legitimacy of Trump or Le Pen comes not from the sudden appeal of a new brand of right-wing populism, but their legitimisation by mainstream politics.

Introducing the Special Branch Files Project

Reading through hundreds of pages describing the innocuous behaviour of citizens exercising their democratic rights to protest raises questions of proportionality. Also, isn’t this a waste of police time?

The illusion of security

It seems as if the political process has been poisoned by the intelligence agencies, who are given more power with less accountability requested every time they fail. Interview.

Yemen: independent intellectuals under threat

Polarisation is wiping out all independent or dissenting voices. Yemeni intellectuals are constantly at risk of acts of violent intimidation, arrest or assassination. Français

Tunisia’s fight against its revolutionary youth

The threat of terrorism has been exploited to justify anti-democratic laws and an escalation of arrests and detentions, apparently more focused on silencing dissent than anything else.

Precarious privacy

This excerpt from the surveillance expert’s account of Surveillance after Snowden asks whether societies that permit mass surveillance at the expense of privacy are undermining the very possibility of politics.

A threat to whom? Some implications of the rise of “extremist rhetoric”

“We need to call in question how, as a society, we allow our security and democracy to be defined.”

Poisoned apple: the curse of social media in the Gulf

The increased social media use in the Gulf might signify some progress for its citizens, but the extent to which it empowers them is greatly outweighed by state surveillance through the same vehicle.

2015 and the struggle for Europe’s core

2015 was the year that everyone could see that the European emperor is not (not any longer) wearing clothes. Worse, the emperor didn’t even deny that he was naked! 

We’ve moved forward since 9/11

'A lot more people are aware that the decisions made by policymakers, the positions taken by the media in the wake of 9/11 in the United States, were mistakes.'

World Forum for Democracy 2015: A report from the democracy incubator hackathon

We are at the start of a digital democratic revolution that will revitalize democracy and help restore trust between governments and citizens.

5 rules for enhancing European counter-terrorism

The continent needs to be more careful about protecting civil freedom in the face of terror.

Human rights aren’t enough any more - we need a new strategy

We must recognise dissent as a bedrock of a healthy society, without which there can be no creativity, innovation, disruption, progress and - crucially - democracy.

How did mistrust of mainstream media become a sign of violent extremism?

The UK Government’s Prevent strategy has led to official claims that mistrust of mainstream media and anger about government policies can be symptomatic of violent extremism.

Surveillance: Zakharov v Russia and what it means for the Investigatory Powers Bill

A recent judgment by the European Court of Human Rights carries important lessons for any government gearing up for a reform of its communications surveillance laws.

Critical masses, chilling effects, and coalitions

Intelligence sharing today is in essence a way for one agency to do the job that another can’t do because of the safeguards placed on it. Interview.  

Totally unbalanced power

"I don’t want to live in a society where everyone can be controlled, their data collected and stored, and then used for whatever purposes private companies want." Interview.

Where do we stand as we seek the balance between freedom and control?

As leaders, we have to overcome all of our historical, political, cultural divides and work towards building trust between communities.” Interview.

Online media: personal data collection as a source of revenue?

The limits of the ad-based revenue model are starting to show. Should we worry about online publishers getting involved in personal data collection in order to maintain income?

Turkey: from “role model” to “illiberal democracy”

If the west sees Turkey as a dumping ground for refugees, ignoring its transformation into an authoritarian regime allegedly assisting jihadist groups, an even more chaotic Middle East will ensue. 

Paris – 3 weeks on

"It is fundamental to search for explanations within our society, notably the social and economic exclusion of part of the population in France."

How do we win back those who sympathise with the jihadist insurgency?

The history of left-wing militancy in Europe suggests that police raids, surveillance techniques, and ‘anti-radicalization’ efforts will not end the jihadist insurgency. The more important struggle lies elsewhere.

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