Internet activists unfurl declaration of online freedom

Matt Pitchford Contributor
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A coalition of Internet activists on Monday unveiled a document they call the “Declaration of Internet Freedom.”

The declaration, fresh on the heels of California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa’s “Digital Bill of Rights,” is intended less as a policy document and more as set of guiding ideas.

In an interview with The Daily Caller, Electronic Frontier Foundation Activism Director Rainey Reitman explained, “The major driving force behind these principles was to articulate outcomes of polices, rather than specific means for getting better Internet policies.”

She said, “The declaration actually has a lot in common with the spirit of Issa’s Bill of Rights, although we were careful to avoid the word ‘rights.’ We don’t want new and different rights, we want to outline outcomes.”

“It’s also different coming from of a broad coalition of advocates instead of from a congressman,” Reitman added.

Only five principles long, the EFF-supported declaration explains that individuals should “discuss these principles — agree or disagree with them, debate them, translate them, make them your own and broaden the discussion with your community — as only the Internet can make possible.”

The declaration reads:

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.

Josh Levy, the internet campaign director for Free Press, which has signed the document, told TheDC in an email: “these are universal principles. If anyone really disagrees with the concepts of freedom, innovation, privacy, and access, that’s fine. That kind of feedback is what this effort is all about — groups and individuals engaging with these principles and debating how to reach our shared goals.”

Reitman also told TheDC that discussion was part of the goal.

“We wanted to create a framework where everyone could get together and talk about the things we are trying to achieve. In some ways that’s already started to be successful,” Reitman said. “Now our ask is to have elected officials sign on to these principles.”

Notable organizations currently “signing” the declaration include Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, social news sites Reddit and Fark, and the liberal publications Daily Kos and Mother Jones.

The Atlantic Wire reports that some groups found the declaration too simplistic or too vague. Tech Liberation’s Adam Thierer wrote, “I think we now need to impose a moratorium on all these new ‘Declarations’ and ‘Bill of Rights’ proposals until we get a hell of a lot more serious about honoring the originals.”

TechFreedom and the Competitive Enterprise Institute have responded by creating their own Declaration of Internet Freedom. “We’re not convinced Internet policymaking can be effectively guided by something as short as the ‘Declaration of Internet Freedom,'” they write. “Rather than enshrining particular consumer preferences … we focus on core principles like humility and respect for the rule of law.”

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Matt Pitchford