J. D. Heyes
Sunday, July 8, 2012
An alliance of groups who advocate for freedom and privacy have joined to push U.S. lawmakers into acknowledging so-called digital rights of all Americans by signing a new Declaration of Internet Freedom .
The declaration, which has been supported by groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, features five simple principles (not 2,700 for keeping a free and open Internet. They are:
Expression: Don’t censor the Internet.
Access: Promote universal access to fast and affordable networks.
Openness: Keep the Internet an open network where everyone is free to connect, communicate, write, read, watch, speak, listen, learn, create and innovate.
Innovation: Protect the freedom to innovate and create without permission. Don’t block new technologies, and don’t punish innovators for their users’ actions.
Privacy: Protect privacy and defend everyone’s ability to control how their data and devices are used.
The EFF, in a statement, said support for the effort was a vital part of its strategy, and the strategy of others, to keep lawmakers in the U.S. and around the world out of the business of regulating the Internet.
An election issue
“For too long in the U.S., Congress has attempted to legislate the Internet in favor of big corporations and heavy-handed law enforcement at the expense of its users’ basic Constitutional rights,” the statement said. “Netizens’ strong desire to keep the Internet open and free has been brushed aside as naive and inconsequential, in favor of lobbyists and special interest groups. Well, no longer.
The statement referenced an earlier effort by concerned groups and citizens to halt an onerous piece of Internet regulation known as the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA. As is usually the case, the bill seemed reasonable: help protect electronic copyrights. But in reality, what it would have done was allow broad censorship across the wide, wide Web, and led to a dampening of innovation while threatening Internet security. At one point, its passage was considered a foregone conclusion by the industry, but a grassroots uprising stopped the bill cold.
“Why were Internet users so empowered for the first time? For one reason, Internet freedom now affects virtually all of the American public – young and old – given the web’s importance to everyone’s daily life,” the EFF said, noting that the uproar was bipartisan – groups and elected officials on both sides of the political aisle banded together to stop SOPA.
The group, as well as others who have signed on, believe that now, Internet freedom has become “an election issue, and candidates for elected office must treat it as such.”
Though freedom lovers got a victory in the SOPA – and subsequent – legislative failures, the assault on controlling the World Wide Web continues. And, in fact, most observers think it has actually accelerated.
More attempts to regulate coming
In fact, the bills are actually being recycled into newer versions of the same thing – and shelved, for the time being, until backers feel the political climate is right to reintroduce them.
Former U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, who became head of the Motion Picture Association after he left office, told the Washington Reporter in April he was “confident” about conversations between Hollywood and Silicon Valley to revive SOPA.
“Between now and sometime next year [after the presidential election], the two industries need to come to an understanding,” he said, mysteriously.
When asked if that meant negotiations were proceeding apace, Dodd said, ” I’m confident that’s the case, but I’m not going to go into more detail because obviously if I do, it becomes counterproductive.”
Moreover, federal agencies – including the FBI – want current laws changed or expanded in order to allow more monitoring and wiretapping of the Web.
All of which proves the point that defense of freedom requires eternal vigilance.