For July 4, a Declaration of Internet Freedom


These five very simple but powerful statements of principle are far from the first word when it comes to trying to define basic values for an Internet age. They have roots that go as far back as the Bill of Rights, while also drawing inspiration from more recent efforts such as John Perry Barlow's rousing Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace from the '90s, the international Internet Rights & Principles Coalition campaign's concise but powerful ten principles on Internet rights, and the Principles for Internet Policy Making adopted last year by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. We've also been inspired by the call from lawmakers like Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Darrell Issa for a digital Bill of Rights for Internet users.

Nor are these principles meant to be the last word on what Internet freedom is or should be, for us or for anyone else. Instead, given the participatory nature of the Internet, we're hoping that the principles will jumpstart a much broader conversation with the online public, involving feedback and refinement from the massive community of Internet users who have shown a willingness to take a stand on behalf of the open Internet. We're excited for the public to interact with these suggested principles through sites including reddit, Step2, Github, Cheezburger, and on Twitter using the hashtag #netdeclaration. We encourage people to vote for their favorites, make edits to them, question them, criticize them, and even suggest new ones. We look forward to hearing from people and organizations from every part of the political spectrum and every corner of the globe about what Internet freedom means to them. The immediate goal isn't consensus, but rather robust dialogue and debate.

We don't want to control the conversation, nor could we if we wanted to. It's on the open Internet, now, and that means anyone can join in the dialogue. But that will only remain true if we all work together to keep the Internet that way: open, innovative, and free. So join us this Independence Day by going online and saying what Internet freedom means to you. Help us light up the online world with a bright new vision of the connected future, and turn the SOPA moment into a lasting movement for Internet freedom.

The Internet blackout is over. Now it's time for the fireworks.

Leslie Harris is the president and CEO of the Center for Democracy & Technology

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