Web Advocates Pen ‘Declaration of Internet Freedom’ to Fight ‘Bad Bills’

By Devon Glenn 

A multibillion-dollar industry that unites people from around the world can’t hide from the law forever.  But to keep bills like the Stop Online Piracy Act from throwing the baby out with the bathwater, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and Free Press internet campaign director Josh Levy have collaborated on a “Declaration of Internet Freedom” that broadly outlines the major issues surrounding Internet regulation.

Here are the five basic principles, as posted on Internetdeclaration.org:

  • 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.

The group is asking Internet users to sign the declaration and to participate in thoughtful discussions about the issues.  While companies can fill out a form directly on internetdeclaration.org, individuals should go to the action pages on Access, CREDO, EFF and Free Press to add their names. There are also discussions happening on redditTechdirtCheezburger, and Github.

Most of the 100-plus organizations already on the list are new media companies such as Cheezburger, Inc., startup incubators such as Y Combinator, and venture capital firms such as the Foundry Group. Thankfully, there are some nonprofits as well, including free speech advocacy group Reporters without Borders.

The declaration is part of an industry-wide effort to keep the government from imposing unfavorable laws on the Web. On January 18, the Internet went dark as website owners united against the Stop Online Piracy Act that could have shuttered them for copyright and trademark infringements without due process. In May, Reddit and other companies formed an Internet Defense League to keep the communication lines open with a “bat signal” that would alert Internet users to future SOPA-like dangers.

Notably absent from the Declaration of Internet Freedom (as of Monday afternoon) are the larger Internet companies like Google and Facebook that will likely bear the brunt of future legislation.  Historically, these companies have favored formal lobbying to Internet stunts, although Google did change its doodle in solidarity of January’s blackout.

Image by OlgaLis via Shutterstock.