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[ NNSquad ] Internet Rights, Internet Wrongs, and Internet War

            Internet Rights, Internet Wrongs, and Internet War


Today is the day of the year when we in this country especially
celebrate the men who less than three centuries ago, meeting largely
in secret and often well-plied with various alcohol-endowed beverages,
formally laid out the ideas and documents that represent the United
States' foundational constructs.

That concepts such as the Bill of Rights have endured through the
evolution of the USA from a slave-owning, agrarian culture to the
modern world of smartphones and the Internet, both thanks to (and in
spite of) the actions of politicians, courts, and others since then,
is nothing short of a practical miracle.

Those Founding Fathers could not possibly have imagined the scope of
vast changes that were to come -- with the possible exception of Ben
Franklin, who could probably be teleported from 1776 to 2012, would
take a few days to orient himself, and then would start both websites
and dating.

Yet while they couldn't see the future, they did undeniably know human
nature.  And human nature hasn't really changed at all since the
founding of this nation, or likely since the rise of Homo sapiens or
even earlier.

It's not as clear that the same can be said for all of us fighting to
preserve freedom and other crucial aspects of the Internet.

In fact, it often appears that we show all of the appreciation of
human nature, especially regarding the political realm, that one might
expect from your average damp sponge.

And make no mistake about it, the forces allied on the other side of
these battles are by and large showing vastly more foresight and
effective acumen.

Some of what they're doing seems relatively passive.  You get the
sense that they can't wait for more of us Internet "old-timers" to
drop out of the picture, so that our inconvenient quotes will stop
appearing in otherwise glowing press accounts of their arguments for
turning the Net into more of a policing mechanism than a bastion of
free speech.

More critically though, they know how to play the political game.
They lobby extensively.  They directly fund those politicians who are
aligned with designated "Internet control" objectives.  And they spend
a lot of time laughing at us.

For they realize that when it comes to achieving our goals in a
necessarily political sphere, we are rank amateurs, enormously

Arguably the best we've come up with to date was the one-day SOPA
blackout, which did push back SOPA/PIPA legislative efforts for the
time being, but in reality the push to pass such legislation in other
forms, including potentially devastating CISPA and other "cyber-scare"
profiteering laws, is continuing with renewed force.

And there's only so many times we can pull the blackout trick, like a
small child threatening to hold his breath until he gets his way.
Such stunts may attract attention the first couple of times -- and
even have some impact -- but will be increasingly ignored going

Unfortunately, our efforts seem to be heading toward less
effectiveness, rather than more.

The current "Declaration of Internet Freedom" project 
( http://j.mp/P9dLsn [Insight] ) appears to be mainly a "feel-good"
campaign, unlikely to have any significant positive impact, and
already is being loudly ridiculed ( http://j.mp/P9eaek [Forbes] ).

What we actually need now, if we are to save the Internet from being
morphed from a tool for freedom into a mechanism of restrictions and
oppression, is much more akin to a declaration of war than a
declaration of freedom.

I don't mean a war of guns and bombs, nor even campaigns of website
blackouts or other protests.

I refer to a war played fair and square within the political arena --
a war aimed at helping to elect politicians who understand the
Internet and freedom, and who have their brains in the 21st century,
instead of the 19th.

A war with the goal of no longer ceding political control of these
issues to those parties who very much want to figuratively crush
freedom on the Internet under their Testoni dress shoes.

The "weapons" toward our ends in such battles are available, if we are
willing to grasp, employ, and deploy them.

Perhaps the most obvious of these, and one that should likely be the
focus of immediate attention, is the much maligned Super PAC.

We might despise them, but Super PACs are now a fact of life, and are
being utilized to the hilt by forces aligned against Internet freedom
and related issues.

For us to ignore the power of Super PACs to affect the political
process would be foolhardy in the extreme.

I strongly urge that serious consideration be given to the
establishment of a Super PAC to not only lobby in the name of
protecting freedom and other rights on the Internet, but to also
directly promote the election of politicians with sensible views
regarding Internet freedoms, technology, and the intersection of these
areas with individuals and society at large.

I understand the reluctance that many techies -- myself included --
have felt toward engaging in any such course directly related to the
political process.  We have been disappointed many times, and the urge
to just utter some expletives and turn our backs is strong indeed.

We must fight this compulsion that would have us avoid the messiness,
the pain, the sheer illogic that so often seem to be part and parcel
of politics and politicians.

Because if we don't learn to "play the game" the way the big boys do
in Washington and other seats of government around the world, we and
our ideas will be steamrolled.  If we refuse to utilize all legal
tools at our disposal to affect the political process in the name of
our own goals, we and Internet freedoms will be crushed.

And that would be catastrophic -- for us, for the Internet, for
freedom, and ultimately for the entire world.

Lauren Weinstein (lauren@vortex.com): http://www.vortex.com/lauren 
Co-Founder: People For Internet Responsibility: http://www.pfir.org 
 - Data Wisdom Explorers League: http://www.dwel.org
 - Network Neutrality Squad: http://www.nnsquad.org 
 - Global Coalition for Transparent Internet Performance: http://www.gctip.org
 - PRIVACY Forum: http://www.vortex.com 
Member: ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy
Lauren's Blog: http://lauren.vortex.com
Google+: http://vortex.com/g+lauren / Twitter: http://vortex.com/t-lauren 
Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800 / Skype: vortex.com
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