July 2, 2012
A coalition of privacy and freedom advocacy groups has joined forces to push for elected officials to acknowledge the digital rights of all Americans and sign a new Declaration of Internet Freedom.
The document has been endorsed by a number of notable groups including The ACLU, The Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Amnesty International, Hackers and Founders, Global Voices, Mozilla, the NY Tech Meetup, Personal Democracy, and Fight for the Future.
The Declaration outlines a simple five pronged manifesto for a free and open internet. They are:
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.
“For too long in the US, Congress has attempted to legislate the Internet in favor of big corporations and heavy-handed law enforcement at the expense of its users’ basic Constitutional rights.” notes The Electronic Frontier Foundation, also a co-sponsor.
“Netizens’ strong desire to keep the Internet open and free has been brushed aside as naïve and inconsequential, in favor of lobbyists and special interest groups. Well, no longer.” the statement reads.
Readers can sign the Declaration themselves as well propose their own changes and debate the issue via Reddit. The top priority of the movement is to encourage members of Congress to show respect for digital civil liberties and sign the declaration.
As Infowars has recently noted, the attempted crackdown on the open internet has not subsided with the defeat of the draconian legislation such as SOPA and PIPA. If anything it has substantially accelerated. Indeed, the bills are being repackaged and readied to be wheeled out again when the powers that be determine the time is right.
It has been widely acknowledged, and even hinted at by huge companies such as Microsoft, that the legislation is part of a long running agenda to completely re-structure and centralize the internet under government control.
Had the bills become law, they would have provided the U.S. government, through the office of the Attorney General, the power to pursue court orders against any website believed to be engaging in or ‘facilitating’ extremely broadly defined ‘copyright infringement’.
The terminology in the legislation was so encompassing that entire web sites faced the threat of being effectively seized and shut down for merely displaying one ‘offending’ hyperlink.
The bills would also have forced compliance from search engines and Internet Service Providers, demanding they create a list of banned web sites and prevent their users from accessing the sites. Advertising networks, payment providers and credit card processors would also have been ordered to stop doing business with any site deemed to be acting unlawfully under SOPA.
In addition, such legislation is merely a legal cover for action the government is already carrying out. The Department of Homeland Security has already seized scores of web sites merely for linking to copyrighted material, despite the fact that such material isn’t even hosted on the web site itself.
The federal government is hell bent on skirting around legal oversight in order to seize more control over web content and communications.
While SOPA, PIPA and ACTA have more of a focus on copyright protection, there is also a huge move afoot to use the issue of cybersecurity as a means to crack down on the free internet.
The Obama administration is going all out to muster support in Congress for a bipartisan cybersecurity bill co-sponsored by Republican Senator Susan Collins and Independent Senator Joseph Lieberman and Democratic Senators Jay Rockefeller and Dianne Feinstein.
While parts of the bill have been toned down recently, critics still contend that the bill contains several provisions that represent a sweeping power grab on behalf of the federal government.
A measure added to the bill by Collins and Lieberman, and supported by Obama, would empower the Department of Homeland Security to conduct “risk assessments” of private companies in sectors deemed critical to U.S. national and economic security, forcing them to comply with expensive mandates to secure their systems.
ISPs AT&T and Comcast have denounced the provision, declaring that federal oversight will stifle innovation.
“Such requirements could have an unintended stifling effect on making real cybersecurity improvements,” Edward Amoroso, chief security officer for Dallas-based AT&T, said in testimony at a recent hearing. “Cyber adversaries are dynamic and increasingly sophisticated, and do not operate under a laboriously defined set of rules or processes.”
As we have previously reported, the bill originally legislated for an Internet ‘kill switch’ that would allow the President to shut down parts of the Internet in an emergency.
There are a whole host of other cybersecurity bills in the works including a GOP bill, co-sponsored by John McCain known as The Secure IT Act, and a newly introduced GOP bill known as The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), sponsored by Michigan Republican Mike Rogers.
All of the bills have the same vague wording and do not clearly define what a cybersecurity threat is. This has prompted groups such as The Electronic Freedom Foundation and The Center for Democracy and Technology to speak out about what they see as legislating for broad information sharing between private companies and the government for ill-defined purposes.
“The Rogers bill gives companies a free pass to monitor and collect communications and share that data with the government and other companies, so long as they do so for ‘cybersecurity purposes,’” the EFF said in a blog post. “Just invoking ‘cybersecurity threats’ is enough to grant companies immunity from nearly all civil and criminal liability, effectively creating an exemption from all existing law.”
Both the EFF and the CDT have noted that CISPA effectively legislates for monitoring and collecting online communications without the knowledge of the parties concerned and funneling them directly to the National Security Agency or the DOD’s Cybercommand.
Essentially all of these bills legislate for moves by the federal government to access and monitor the online communications of all Americans, much like the more open agenda of the British government to snoop on citizens.
With the additional ongoing construction of a city sized secret NSA data collection center in the Utah desert, about which the agency will not even give details to Congress about, it is clear that the powers that be fully expect to go ahead with such plans, with or without the legislation to do so. A universally recognised Declaration of Internet Freedom would delay that agenda and allow for enhanced coordination amongst internet freedom advocates going forward.
Steve Watson is the London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham in England.