For July 4, a Declaration of Internet Freedom

Advocacy groups offer vision for online freedom.

ByABC News
July 3, 2012, 5:28 PM

July 4, 2012 — -- On Jan. 18 of this year, the Internet went dark. In protest against overreaching copyright legislation that endangered the open architecture of the Internet, online services like Wikipedia and Reddit, along with 115,000 other websites, participated in an Internet-wide "blackout" to educate Internet users about the threat to net freedom. Thanks to the joint efforts of free speech advocates, online innovators and everyday Internet users, Congressional offices were flooded with calls and emails, and within days, the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) were shelved in response to the massive online uprising.

Now, half a year later, many of the people and organizations that helped make that Jan. 18 protest a success — including my own, the Center for Democracy & Technology — are ready to try something different. We're ready to move from defense to offense; ready to support something, rather than just oppose something; ready to transform that powerful moment, where Internet users rose up as one to oppose online censorship, into a lasting movement for Internet freedom. We're ready to try and harness the energy of January's tsunami of online activism, a shock wave whose effects continue to be seen in the privacy debate over cybersecurity legislation in the U.S. and the protests over the ACTA treaty in Europe.

That's why this July 4, instead of blacking out the Internet, we wanted to shine a light and share a positive vision of the Internet and its future, and beta-test a set of principles that can help serve as a rallying cry for Internet freedom fighters both in America and across the globe — principles that are broad and universal enough to speak to all political persuasions yet specific enough to serve as a benchmark against which future Internet legislation can be judged and around which future Internet movements can organize.

We're proud to be publishing those principles today in the form of A Declaration of Internet Freedom, joined by a diverse group of Internet innovators and advocates drawn from the loose but wide-ranging alliance that defeated SOPA and PIPA, including companies like Mozilla, individuals like Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, and advocacy and activist groups like Free Press, Public Knowledge, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Fight for the Future.

We are publishing our declaration on Independence Day to echo the American founding fathers' publication of the Declaration of Independence, though we believe these values can and should apply globally as befits a global network. And what we declare, simply, is that:

We stand for a free and open Internet.

We support transparent and participatory processes for making Internet policy and the establishment of five basic principles:

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.