July Fourth celebrations this week were marked by hot dogs, fireworks — and three proclamations to preserve the revolutionary spirit of the internet.
In case you missed it, the first save-the-internet declaration kicked off in Silicon Valley this week and was quickly countered by a conservative alternative. Soon after, the United Nations weighed in with a manifesto of its own.
This burst of political energy shows that the internet may be the next ground zero of revolution and that we may need a Constitution-like document to define its values.
For confused internet warriors or those who simply want to stay out of the way, here’s a quick look at the new movements:
What it is: A statement of five principles — Expression, Access, Openness, Innovation and Privacy — intended to keep the internet safe from censors, tyrants, plutocrats and the government.
Brought to you by: Silicon Valley tech and media types; the folks who brought down the SOPA anti-piracy bill
Pros: Nice idea, backed by folks who make cool web stuff and haven’t done you any harm
Cons: Preaching to the converted; hippies; shaky legal foundation (see Elie’s Constitutional mark-up here)
What it is: A libertarian proclamation to protect the internet from censorship and the “collectivist-Industrial complex — a dangerous brew of wealthy, international NGO’s, progressive do-gooders, corporate cronies,” and to ensure that telecom and big data companies aren’t burdened with regulation.
Brought to you by: Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tx) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky), end-the-Fed folks, the ghost of Ayn Rand
Pros: Backed by political pros; laissez-faire outlook
Cons: Gives Microsoft, Comcast et al keys to the entire internet; possibly catastrophic for privacy and the poor
What it is: A UN Human Rights Council consensus resolution that affirms the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognizes the internet’s role in promoting a right to media and expression
Brought to you by: The foreign minister of Sweden (via the NY Times) but also the fine governments of China, Cuba, Congo, Kyrgyzgstan, Nigeria, Uganda, Russia and Saudi Arabia (full list here).
Pros: Ringing affirmation of free speech and media across borders
Cons: The new world order; rabid anti-Americanism
Who do you cast your vote for?
In a perfect world, a future “Constitution of the Internet” would represent the idealism and tech savvy of Silicon Valley, the political experience of Ron Paul and the global community of the United Nations. But is this even possible? Some people may embrace this rush to stand up against threats to the internet — while others may be more alarmed by the internet’s self-appointed protectors.
(Images by Rob Kints, fourb, patrimonio designs limited and Oleksiy Mark via Shutterstock)