Tuesday, February 01, 2011

An Internet Charter of Rights and Freedoms

An Internet Charter of Rights and Freedoms

I. We have the right to connect.

No person shall be denied connectivity based on race, religion, economic status or sex. With the following exception of promoting HATE Speech, publishing content that violates the rights and freedoms of others and violating basic human rights and freedoms.

II. We have the right to speak.

No one may abridge our freedom of speech. As users we must acknowledge the limitations on freedom of speech (such as hate speech) but they must defined as narrowly as possible, lest we find ourselves operating under a lowest common denominator of offense. Freedom is our default.

III. We have the right to speak in our languages.

The English language’s domination of the internet has faded as more languages and alphabets have joined the net, which is to be celebrated. We want to build bridges across languages and cultures. We will want to speak in our own languages but also speak with others.

IV. We have the right to peaceful assembly.

The right to peaceful assembly is listed separately from the right to speak. The internet enables us to organize without organizations and collaborate and that now threatens repressive regimes and wrong doing by governments as much as speech.

V. We have the right to act.

We connect to speak and speak to assemble and assemble to act. That is how we can and will change the world, not just putting forth grievances but creating the means to fix them; and putting an end to the institutions that would stop the will of the people.

VI. We have the right to control our data.

We control our own online presence and should be seen as much or as little as we choose. Companies and governments do not own the access to data about you. What’s yours is yours. The internet should operate on a principle of portability, so data cannot and should not be held prisoner by a service or government. The User retains control; but keep in mind that when control is given to one, it is taken from another the devil is in the details. This principle speaks to copyright and its laws, which set the definitions and limits of control or creation. This principle also raises questions about whether the wisdom of the crowd belongs to the crowd.

VII. We have the right to our own identity.

Our online identity is made up of our names, addresses, speech, creations, actions, and connections. Maintaining anonymity — hiding one’s identity — is a necessity; thus anonymity, with all its faults and baggage and trolls, must also be protected; to protect the people who disagree with the status quo; the ones who disagrees in matters of popular opinions, beliefs, social and religious values. Not to mention the ever important whistleblower. Controlling our data and our identities — make up the right to privacy.

VIII. What is public is a public good.

The internet is public; indeed, it is a public place (rather than a medium). In the rush to protect privacy, we must beware the dangers of restricting the definition of public. What’s public is owned by the public. Making the public private or secret serves the corrupt and tyrannical.

IX. The internet shall be built and operated openly.

The internet must continue to be built and operated to open standards. It must not be taken over or controlled by any company or government. It must not be taxed; it must not be limited. It is the internet’s openness and potential that gives it its freedom. It is this freedom that defines the internet.


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