In recent years, the notion of digital public spaces has gained prominence in digital policy discussions in the EU and elsewhere. More recently, the idea of building and safeguarding digital public spaces — originally developed by civil society organizations and digital rights activists — has been increasingly embraced by policymakers, as evidenced by the inclusion of a section on “Participation in the Digital Public Space” in the European Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles for the Digital Decade, adopted by EU co-legislators at the end of 2012.
The purpose of this primer is to explain the concept of digital public spaces as a central tenet of European digital policies. We do so by describing the need for such spaces, and providing a definition of digital public spaces and related concepts such as Digital Commons and a public digital infrastructure. We also show why digital public spaces are a necessity for the full realization of digital rights and how the European Union should support digital public spaces by investing in public digital infrastructure.