Cancellation of the 2020 Internet Freedom Festival

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 3, 2020

As a result of the escalating impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus), it is with heavy hearts that we will be cancelling the 2020 edition of the Internet Freedom Festival.

For the IFF team, the safety and security of our participants is our top priority, and given the escalating impact and increased risk of COVID-19 we could not, in good faith, bring community members from all over the world and risk their health and that of their families and communities.

Although we will not be gathering physically, we will be planning for community engagements in other forms, and we will be announcing those opportunities once they are finalized. Meanwhile we are working to make sure that all participants, presenters, our staff, our vendors, and partners are notified.

Now more than ever, the world needs the work that we all do to connect and enlighten. That is why, as well as providing proper guidance to maintain the health and safety of our staff, partners and communities, we must also be aware of our mission at the IFF in these uncertain times.

Misinformation and fake news about the spread of the virus are rampant online; and communities are being targeted due to unwarranted suspicions based on race or nationality. We encourage our community to continue to support each other and counter efforts to stigmatize and marginalized those who are the unwitting victims of fear.

Why are we canceling?
Our decision to cancel the Festival this year was difficult but our overriding concern and principle has been to protect our community and minimize harm to vulnerable populations. We cannot ignore the serious health consequences COVID-19 on those exposed, or the risk that people could find themselves inadvertently blocked from returning home or placed in quarantine as governments rapidly change their responses to international travellers.

In recent days, the World Health Organization and the EU Centers for Disease Control have elevated the risk assessment. In addition, various organizations have banned employees from non-essential travel. Countries such as Switzerland have banned large events and individuals are already facing increasing issues with their Schengen visa process. We suspect that the situation will worsen in the coming weeks. In Spain, Valencia has become one of the country’s hot spots with an increasing number of confirmed cases of COVID-19. In addition, the Spanish Ministry of Health is considering more intensified measures including restricting public gatherings if the spread of COVID-19 cannot be contained.

What Does this Mean for Ticket Holders?
If you currently have a free ticket, there is nothing you need to do, as your ticket will be void. If you purchased a ticket, you can ask for a full refund. However, we ask you to consider it as a donation to our Diversity & Inclusion Fund for the 2021 IFF, so we can better empower underrepresented voices.

As the IFF has become a place for many to reunite and meet --- we know this will have a major impact on your own community efforts and travel planning. We will be working closely with community members to help offset some of the impact this may have. We encourage you to reach out to your community, airlines and/or accommodations as soon as possible, as many companies have begun waiving change fees due to the public safety concerns of COVID-19.

If you received funding to host a side event, we can provide your sponsors/funders with a letter explaining the IFF’s decision, to help recoup financial outlays. Of course, please reach out if there is anything else we can do to support you.

What Does this Mean for Presenters?
If you were selected as a presenter, we will offer you the option to present in 2021. Those who are receiving travel funding to the IFF will be given special consideration for the 2021 edition. We will be following up with all speakers in the coming weeks to discuss this in further detail.

There may also be options in the future ro share your knowledge and engage with the community via our virtual Glitter Meetups, and other virtual initiatives.

What Does this Mean for the Community?
We understand that the community looks forward to gathering together every year. We too are incredibly sad to miss out on seeing old and new friends. However, in the coming months we will be shifting efforts into creating more opportunities for connecting and sharing online as well as strengthening local networks by nurturing more local hubs for the community.

Talk to Us
Join us this Thursday, March 5 at 9am EST / 2pm GMT for our weekly Glitter Meetup. The entire team will be available to answer your questions. As always, notes from this meetup will be made available on the Community Updates page.

While we will try to respond to individual questions as fast as possible, please be patient as we navigate the high communication volume our team will be receiving in the coming days.

We love and thank our community for everything you do on a daily basis. Please reach out if we can support you in any way.

Contact:
team(at)internetfreedomfestival(dot)org
Wire: @internetff
Signal: +18179034966
Schedule time to talk to the IFF Team: https://calendly.com/iff-travel

Resources
World Health Organization Risk Assessment:
As of March 2, the WHO’s global assessment is “very high”
https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/situation-reports/

EU Centers for Disease Control Risk Assessment:
As of March 3, EU’s assessment is considered “moderate to high”
https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/current-risk-assessment-novel-coronavirus-situation

Spain Ministry of Health - Daily Situation Reports (in Spanish)
https://www.mscbs.gob.es/en/profesionales/saludPublica/ccayes/alertasActual/nCov-China/situacionActual.htm