Web-Savvy Lawmakers Call for Internet Bill of Rights

Mobilizing online community could cut out Washington middlemen

The Internet's newly anointed congressional Internet deities, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) called during this Monday morning's Personal Democracy Forum in New York for Congress and the Internet community to adopt a digital bill of rights. Issa and Wyden helped to shut down the advancement of the Stop Online Piracy Act early this year.

Since the Internet mobilized on Jan. 18 to voice its collective opposition to SOPA, the Internet community and its defenders in Congress have been looking at ways to use the Web to change the power structure in Washington, D.C.

"What the Internet community did [in January] was create a fear," said Issa, who has posted his idea for a digital citizens bill of rights on his "Keep the Web Open" site. "Fear of being exposed is very powerful. No [congressional] member wants to be thought of as not caring about their constituency."

The beauty of Jan. 18, said Wyden, was that it cut out the middleman, something that is all but unheard of in Washington. "We're trying to change the power in Washington," said Wyden. "In the past, the way you got the word out was through a phone tree. What we're talking about is building a system that will create a signal throughout the community."

Such a document could also help inform Congress and agencies as they evaluate regulation and legislation that could impact the Internet. "Agencies like the Federal Communications Commission need a set of instructions," Issa said. "More of your freedom will be taken away by regulatory agencies than Congress."