Advocacy group Keyboard Frontline has awarded three pro-democracy parties its highest rating for supporting internet freedom. The parties were awarded for adopting nine major principles and providing new ways to protect internet freedom in their platforms.

The group was the one of the major lobbyists behind the ultimate failure to pass “Internet Article 23” – the new copyright law that Keyboard Frontline argued would potentially curb internet freedom. After forcing the government to withdraw the legislation, it started to draft an Internet Freedom Manifesto and asked political parties and groups to publicise their stances on internet freedom.

Keyboard Frontline internet freedom
Candidates at a press conference promising to support internet freedom. Photo: Keyboard Frontline.

Of the 32 political parties and groups interviewed, the Democratic Party, Youngspiration and Demosisto were awarded a “diamond” ranking for adopting all principles stipulated in the manifesto. All the parties and groups that responded to Keyboard Frontline’s request to publicise their stance on internet freedom were pan-democratic or localist groups.

The nine principles included supporting freedom of speech and expression online, an open digital economy, equal rights for online media, and responsible use of data, among others.

According to Keyboard Frontline, the three parties added new positions to their platforms. These include opposing increasing government surveillance, online real-name policies and the right to be forgotten, and supporting legislation to hold agencies accountable.

The group said that none of the political parties or groups had any internet freedom policies on their political agendas before they were asked in June, but two months later, ten of them included the relevant policies, and two of them expressly support the Internet Freedom Manifesto.

‘Safer and more open internet’

Glacier Kwong Chung-ching, spokesperson for the group, said the platforms of the parties and groups reflected their thinking over internet freedom.

“Most people in Hong Kong are internet users. If parties do not care about internet policies, people should have clear information as to whether some parties or some candidates can fight for a safer and more open internet for them,” she said.

internet freedom
The awardees. Photo: Keyboard Frontline.

The group said it was disappointed that most pro-Beijing camp parties or groups did not reply or include internet freedom policies in their platforms.

Some localist groups also failed to do so, including the Hong Kong Resurgence Order and the Proletariat Political Institute. Civic Passion, which did not include such policies in its platforms, attended the press conference in support of the manifesto.

People Power, Democracy Groundwork, Civic Party and the League of Social Democrats received a gold award, the Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood received a silver award, while the Kowloon East Community group and the Neo Democrats received a bronze.

The Labour Party and the Neighbourhood and Worker’s Service Centre were named “Friends of Internet Freedom” by the group.

The full list of candidates in the Legislative Council election on September 4 can be viewed here.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.