A Bill of Rights in Cyberspace

In my Media Guardian column this Monday, I will suggest that we need a Bill of Rights in Cyberspace as a set of amendments to John Perry Barlow’s 1996 Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace. Note that I do not suggest the establishment a Constitution of the Internet; I think that would violate the tenets Barlow so eloquently if grandiosely sets forth. We don’t need government in cyberspace; we need freedom.

This Bill of Rights attempts to establish the fundamental freedoms of our internet that must be protected against abridgment by governments, companies, institutions, criminals, subverters, or mobs. I suggest in my column that in its confrontation with China, Google is acting as the ambassador for the internet to the old world under its own (rediscovered) principles. So we would be wise to establish our principles. I ask the column’s readers to come to this post to suggest and discuss articles. Also discuss at the Guardian’s Comment is Free.

Here are mine:

* * *

A Bill of Rights in Cyberspace

I. We have the right to connect.

This is a preamble and precondition to the American First Amendment: before we can speak, we must be able to connect. Hillary Clinton defines the freedom to connect as “the idea that governments should not prevent people from connecting to the internet, to websites, or to each other.” It is this principle that also informs discussion of net neutrality.

II. We have the right to speak.

No one may abridge our freedom of speech. We acknowledge the limitations on freedom of 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. But Ethan Zuckerman also cautions that in our polyglot internet, we will want to build bridges across languages. We will want to speak in our own languages but also speak with others’.

IV. We have the right to assemble.

In the American Bill of Rights, the right to assemble is listed separately from the right to speak. The internet enables us to organize without organizations and collaborate and that now threatens repressive regimes as much as speech.

V. We have the right to act.

These first articles are a thread: We connect to speak and speak to assemble and assemble to act and that is how we can and will change the world, not just putting forth grievances but creating the means to fix them. That is what threatens the institutions that would stop us.

VI. We have the right to control our data.

You should have access to data about you. And what’s yours is yours. We want the internet to operate on a principle of portability, so your information and creations cannot be held prisoner by a service or government and so you retain control. But keep in mind that when control is given to one, it is taken from another; in those details lurk devils. This principle thus 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.

This is not as simple as a name. Our identity online is made up of our names, addresses, speech, creations, actions, connections. Note also that in repressive regimes, maintaining anonymity — hiding one’s identity — is a necessity; thus anonymity, with all its faults and baggage and trolls, must also be protected online to protect the dissenter and the whistleblower. Note finally that these two articles — controlling our data and our identities — make up the right to privacy, which is really a matter of control.

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 is the internet’s openness that gives it its freedom. It is this freedom that defines the internet.

* * *

* Bruce Sterling quoting Timothy Garton Ash on the state of freedom of information.
* Ethan Zuckerman: We can’t circumvent our way around censorship.
* Ethan Zuckerman on internet freedom.
* Rebecca MacKinnon’s Congressional testimony on internet freedom and Chinese censorship.
* Kevin Marks compares China’s policies and the U.K.’s Digital Britain bill.
* Clay Shirky: “What forces Google to have a foreign policy is that what they’re exporting isn’t a product or a service, it’s a freedom.”

* * *
Thanks to Benoit Raphael here is a French version of the Bill of Rights and here is a German version at Zeit Online. Now thanks to Itai Alter, here it is as a Google Doc in Hebrew.

And now, most appropriately, in Chinese. Note, however, the disclaimer at the bottom of that page (via Google Translate): “?This translation is only the purpose of language learning and reading, the original author and the translator and the translation of personal opinion has nothing to do made by Network].”

Also in Norwegian thanks to Arne Halvorsen. I hope that Arabic and Persian are coming.

And then (in German) there is an alternative version.

Another German translation here.

  • Jeff I love your article and I support your B ill of Rights in Cyberspace 100%. Let us citizens of the cyberspace know what you would like us to do to promote this cause. Other than twittering, facebooking and blogging I am sure we can start an online international petition to share with th U.N and all the governments of the world!

    In the words of Google Don’t Be Evil!

    • Eric Gauvin

      May the force be with you!

  • Oh, no. *Hell* no. We need to keep you far, far away from the project of making rights documents given your technocommunist views — these aren’t rights, but wrongs, and a power grab ensuring that only a narrow, technocratic class keeps its grip on the tools of the Internet and social media.

    1. No one has to “give” us the “right to connect”. We connect. Introducing positive rights into rights documents that should be only about negative right, i.e. limiting state power so that it does not hinder connection, only leads to the hypertrophy of a state or state-like power. And we already have the “right to connect” in the way it needs to be espoused: It is called “Congress shall make no law…so as to abridge the freedom of speech”. That’s it. No need to embellish. The best press law is no law; the Internet is about press law as people speak and gather virtually.

    2. No, again, we don’t have to reaffirm a “right to speak” that we “have” as if a state “gave it to us”. We have the First Amendment. That’s sufficient. You need to study more about how laws are made when they are just.

    You make exactly the same mistake Raph Koster made with his “Bill of Avatar Rights” because you imagine some nebulous collective or entity or committee (likely with yourself prominently featured as ruling it!) that will ‘give out’ rights on the Internet or who represent “the public interest” like a bolshevik avant-garde. You and Joi Ito and Larry Lessig! No thanks.

    3. Again, you cannot *force* a right to speak in languages. You can only not get in the way of them — and that means doing nothing. Russian and Chinese Internet thrives without you, and doesn’t thrive in a free direction. Language is not the problem.

    4. “These first articles are a thread: We connect to speak and speak to assemble and assemble to act and that is how we can and will change the world, not just putting forth grievances but creating the means to fix them. That is what threatens the institutions that would stop us.”

    Ugh, this is really revolutionary leftist clap-trap. Change for whom? Not every change is in fact “progressive” or beneficial, especially in your camp. Institutions are made by democratic liberal states with elected representatives — not by flashmobs on the Internet where “code is law”. Hm, is that why *you* don’t like them? They threaten *you*? Don’t like a political process that might require compromise of various interest groups, want to use social media to override them? We won’t let you.

    People have the right to assemble and speak ALREADY in the U.S. Constitution which we don’t need you to amend. Acting is something they democratically deliberate about without having a “right” conferred on them to do so. They are free people — that is, until YOU collectivize them. That’s all this is about. The right to act is a cover for rounding up people to do your will.

    5. Right to control data sounds great, until once again, you use it with not-so-subtle subterfuge as a sleight-of-hand to intrude with collectivist ideology again. A crowd cannot own something. It is a crowd. It is the tyranny of who shows up, and not a lawful person or group entity with responsibility and accountability with a charter, board, etc. Is that why *you* would rather ‘a crowd’ own something that a corporation or non-profit? Do you prefer to destroy such intitutions in favour of ecstatic nonse groups formed capriciously on the Internet that you feel you’ll be able to swing your way? No thanks.

    6. This might sound like you care about privacy, but it isn’t, because that hinges on private property, ownership, protection of intellectual property law — all things you work against in your campaigns for opensource and free culture and all the rest. Which you admit in the next principle, so that you can’t be trusted to formulate no. 6.

    7. And here you admit that you want to nationalize, collectivize and make sure people don’t take too much “back” from the public commons. I’ll tell you what REALY serves the corrupt and the tyrannical: taking the private public, and pretending it is public, when really it’s just you and your comrades in charge, in secret.

    Jeff Jarvis, who died and put you on the Constitutional drafting committee of the entire Internet? You represent nothing; you are not even an acclaimed leader in this task. Bills of rights are drafted by constituent assemblies that are either elected, or at least represent some interest group that has a stake. They are not drafted by elite bloggers and pushed through thousands of Twitter followers. Oh, they might be, but then they are thoroughly illegitimate.

    The Internet communities did not delegate to you the drafting of a document that affects us all.

    8. Open standards? Again, whose? Yours? Opensource=closed society. Time and again we see how the shill of opensource leads to little cabals with tyrannical leaders foisting non-working and destructive programs on us, whether “openID” or “oauth” or “Drupal” or whatever. The Internet’s freedom in fact comes from proprietary software not merely opensource software and “standards” that are usually formed by big corporations harvesting the slave labour of volunteer OS coders anyway, at IETF, which “hums” instead of making democratic votes among constituencies.

    In short, Jeff, go away. Just as Barlow was not needed with his ecstatic utopianism of yesteryear, actually smuggling in a very old ideology of collectivism, so you are not needed!

    • I’m not just talking about America! (Remember, I’m writing a column in the U.K. and it is in the context of talking about China, fercrissakes.). People in North Korea have no right to connect. Don’t you think they should as a human right in this digital age? Iran? China? If Google and other companies are going to leave a country over principles, what are those principles? Shouldn’t we discuss them? I’m suggesting mine. As the late, great Mayor Daley of Chicago often said, “What trees have you planted?”

      • The way in which people in North Korea gain a right to connect is not by having an international bureacuratic committee or entity run by you awarding it to them, or even the UN awarding to it, because *rights don’t work that way, Jeff*. You’re simply ignorant of the theory behind rights.

        They either “find these truths to be self-evident” (they are) or “inalieable” and granted by the Creator (they are) or they find a culturally relevant and appropriate way of affirming that rights are inhernent, not conferred, that they are recognized and upheld by international actors, but not awarded. THAT is the point here. Trying to turn it into yet another PC bash about “Amerika” is silly.

        What trees have I planted? I’ve worked for 30 years in the international human rights movement all over the place. We missed you the last 30 years while you were doodling around in anarchic Cyberspace and not thinking about how this online civilization could really be made free as the place where we really live now, instead of the plaything of corporations with TOS and opensource freaks with hacking and devaluation of property.

        Google and China? Existing international human rights protections are all you need to invoke here — Art. 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Liberties by which China is bound are what you have to work with. You don’t have to invent fake cyberrights that you dispense — “the right to connect” implies there isn’t already a connection that can be claimed.

        You’ve forgotten that you can’t put it together; it *is* together.

        You can’t seem to grasp that you are ignorantly layering “rights” on (economic privileges or benefits) that aren’t even economic and social rights but just a set of marketing and business prospects for Google to sell ads better.

        Please don’t prettify it, Jeff, because that’s all it is.

        If Google is going to “confer” connectivity rights for us all now to fight China and North Korea and even Comcast, then…I want Google to have separation of powers; I want Google to have checks and balances; I want democratic elections of Google’s board; I want a lot of things that I get with normal real-world governments that this…entity…doesn’t have as it abuses my privacy.

        You’re like John Perry Barlow, floundering around in a fake Cyberspace that you don’t even really inhabit and making up rules for other people in your self-interest, instead of realizing that Cyberspace is an extension of the real world where the best of the real-world’s laws should obtain, not the worst of its practices like theft, griefing and exposing of privacy.

    • Heh. I can’t tell if this is a joke comment. But fwiw, open source thrives because of the very things you seem to be espousing. It’s because the business model works that it’s still around, not because of some “technocommunist” conspiracy. Nobody is forced to use open source, and nobody is constrained by open source licenses any more than by proprietary licenses.

      What, is the sky falling? I didn’t see that on Twitter!

      • You’re just spouting the usual opensource shill that claims there is a business model in liberating my content and selling ads against it with your platform and widgets.

        You may find a business model in collectivized content forced to be shared for free in a Creative Commons, but that’s only because you may be in that narrow apex at the top of the pyramid, or the fat end of the long tail, where geeks with specialized programmiing or other consulting skills and connections can sell their services for loads of money. Everybody else gets a dollar a day for their web page production and lives like third world slaves.

        Could you show me how Facebook and Twitter and Youtube are making a profit…yet? The first two aren’t public companies, so we can’t tell. If they made some pittance, it’s because all they did was sell off some piece of their walled garden to Google or some company for data mining. They are like Russia selling off its gold and minerals for hard currency while the Soviet Union collapsed for lack of free enterprise.

        It’s always remarkable to me what a cult the opensource thing is, so that there is no awareness of how the culture of Free destroyed value in newspapers, media, etc. and how we are all forced to use opensource when we don’t get to chose how the Internet architecture works as a public in a democratic company, instead companies use their own self interest to grab the space.

    • Nice of you to prove Voltaire so right about his famous “defend until death your right to say” phrase.

      • Eric Gauvin

        did someone die?

  • Thanks for putting this up! This is something you got me thinking about when you mentioned it on TWiG. I find that what I’ve jotted down mostly agrees with what you have, but I would add the following:

    Point I: I would add that we have the right to link. (I’m surprised that’s explicitly stated!) Hiding content behind a paywall or a robots.txt is a right. But equally important is the right for the rest of us to point to your hidden content anyway. Information wants to be free – even if it’s expensive. (yes, I know that’s not the quote)

    Point VII: The right to identity should also include the right to anonymity. Just as it’s important to be able to positively identify yourself to gain trust, it’s just as important to hide your identity … for the same reason of trust.

    Point IX: I would add wording about no body having sovereignty over the web. It is infrastructure in the same way roads, power, and water are infrastructure – the physical connections may lie with in borders but they are a part of the people’s rights, heritage, and legacy.

    • Great points, Joey. After having discussed the right to link, how could I forget it.
      Is positive identity a right (as in protecting my own true identity) or a feature (a service that, say, Twitter or Facebook offers)? I’m not sure either way.
      I agree about sovereignty; Barlow said it better than I could.

      • Re: Identity: I would say it is currently a feature. But the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that it should be a right.

        It’s funny, but the thing that keeps coming to mind in discussions of identity on the web is the SciFi book Ender’s Game. In 1985, Orson Scott Card predicts the internet – but does so in a way that puts identity as the foundation of the system.

        Card lays out a system of nets – there is no one internet – with varying degrees of access control (think IRC chatrooms). The lowest level nets allow for complete anonymity, but content and discussions that take place there do not carry much weight in the real (political) world. The higher level nets charge for access but are tied to a government issued identity and are used for political discourse – and what we would call journalism.

        In an ironic twist, the characters in the book are able to use pseudonyms on these higher level nets and maintain anonymity, but are only able to do so because they’ve established a firm reputation on the lower level nets.

        All of this is a long way of saying that I believe that a strong form of unique and trustworthy identity is necessary for the web to reach its full potential.

    • You act as if roads and water spring magically from the head of Zeus.

      They are built or accessed by cities which are run by governments, usually elected, in partnership with corporations, usually free in the best models. And that those utilities have a way of paying for themselves through taxes and commerce, and that people decide about their use democratically in parliaments.

      No so this wacky Cyberspace collectivism which claims there is no sovereignty, and then lets it secretly be stolen by Joi Ito in some committee or the hummers at the IETF…

      Google gets to pretend its doing rural people a favour by lobbying for public monies to have broadband built to remote areas, but it’s only about creating more eyeballs for its ads, and brings dubious benefits when you study the actual uses of the Internet.

  • Roy Brown

    Oy… didn’t realize you were so anti-Facebook, Jeff. I think FB violates each one of these… with gusto. I thought people had given up on the dream of a decentralized internet… FB is the new opiate of the masses, and just like the Church, it’s immune to declarations of rights.

  • Brian Gillespie

    II makes III redundant. A well chosen word or two added to II would make it more obvious, if you like.

    The “right to link” can be in direct conflict with VI, don’t add it.
    In fact, VI conflicts with VIII you’ll need to reconfigure/clarify one or both.

    On IX, there is more threat to the internet from corporations than governments. Right now there are many corporate interests fighting over the medium and that keeps it relatively free. That will change and there will be a consolidation as there always is. The interwebs will fall under the control of ever fewer corporations.

    If you want protection, it’s going to come from governments not corporations. People need to organize to slow down the pro-corporate march to internet control.

    • The “right to link” is legal nonsense too. It’s merely a variation on the right to connect, which should be affirmed as existing and put in terms like the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law…such as to restrict the connection and linking of the People.”

      So instead of having a body confer a right — which means they can take it away — you affirm the right as inherent in natural law and a given, then prohibit any government from blocking it.

      It’s also annoying that this lot shows the usual lack of concern for privacy and private property, which form the bedrock of freedom, so that people should have the right to link or not link.

  • Jeff, looking forward to hearing more on this from you at re:publica 2010…

  • Eric Gauvin

    I think the Roman numerals are an excellent touch. Don’t change that.

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  • I think that “We have the right to act” is a little fuzzy. That one steps out of the world of bits and into the world of atoms. Each state will surely maintain its power to regulate physical actions. Just because a mob has the right to organize online doesn’t give it an indiscriminate right “to act” by lynching someone. That point needs narrower definition, at least.

    Also, I would add something about net neutrality. “All data are created equal.” Those who sell the infrastructure of the Internet may not use their position to regulate or discriminate against what data flows through that infrastructure.

    • Thinking about your first point, love your expression of the second. thanks.

  • tom

    As usual Jeff you are way ahead of the curve.

  • Completely unnecessary. All the things you note in your “Bill of Rights” we already do without asking government ‘permission’ to do.

    All governments are looking for a way – any way – to get involved in control of the internet and information distribution.

    The internet and cyberspace is messy and so is freedom. Which is why government usually winds up trying to control it.

    We shouldn’t deal with them on any terms.

    • I worry that without some sort of expression that those who will or may (depending upon one’s level of cynicism and pessimism) will not be informed. If you take a look at the uneven use of the internet by the government, I think it becomes clear that not everyone in the position to make decisions has an understanding of what the internet / cyberspace is.

      At some point there will need to be greater governance of the internet in order for cyber-bullying laws (which are on the books now, but appear to be applied both strangely and haphazardly and perhaps on occasion unconstitutionally) to be fairly and effectively enforced. I’d like lawyers and judges and policy makers to have some document(s) that define the web to turn to.

      You’re right “cyberspace is messy and so is freedom”. Jeff’s post here doesn’t make him the spokesperson, but begins a conversation, which may assist government officials in their decision-making. This seems like a good place to start since the “government usually winds up trying to control” well, everything.

    • I am not asking government permission at all. Quite the contrary. Please read Barlow. This is not about government at all; quite the contrary. I am saying that when we protest against government restriction, we need a standard — our standard — to hold them to.

      • I had never read that Barlow piece. Excellent.

        I have a concrete suggestion for everyone here that can be done right now that will make a difference.

        At the next legislative session in your capitol, go testify on behalf of a strengthened open meetings or public records law. If none are pending, find a friendly legislator to sponsor one and help get it passed. Government corruption depends upon an uninformed citizenry and we are the antidote for that.

        Later this spring I will be traveling to Baton Rouge to do just that.

      • We certainly should not have to ask permission and should not freely accept government intervention or restriction, but I think a document stating “our standard” would be helpful to have at the ready in order to make “our standard” known.

  • Ken

    This is a great article. I do think that we need to place some restrictions on the speech though. Under your bill of rights there are no limits to speech. And I realize that the article is more focused on North Korea, China, Iran and the like, but what about the idiot that made off the cuff threats to the president on Twitter? What about cyber-bullying?

    I think that this may be a larger issue than just the internet. It is more of a social and human rights issue. I am not sure how you reconcile the fact that we cannot force these countries to tow the line. After all we cannot preclude them from access the internet (if they misuse it), because then we will be violating the very principles that we have set forth.

    • The First Amendment has worked pretty damned well. Laws exist to deal with such things as threatening peoples’ lives. Default to freedom.

      • If you can say that, Mr. Google, then you can drop this entire ridiculous exercise. First Amendment and other constitutional norms are all we need. Other countries can fight for their freedoms as/when needed affirming the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Criminal law takes care of incitement; constititutions aren’t where you put criminal law.

        No need for an awful New World Information Order — drop the whole thing.

        Cyberspace, which shouldn’t be defined only by Barlow and you other aging hippeies, needs human rights activists demanding that human rights be fulfilled online as an extension of real life; it does not need a new bill of rights.

    • You don’t need to put speecn restrictions in a constitution affirming the freedoms of cyber space. You show shocking little knowledge of your own country’s history and laws.

      You have no notion of how to define something as overbroad as “cyberbullying” which can be criticizing Cory Doctorow one day, which leads him to make calls to ban you, to having John Perry Barlow tell you that he wishes he could kick you in your tiny avatar nuts the next day, both examples of speech which should be tolerated and allowed to stand to shape reputations.

      Very little court precedent has been set on “cyberbullying,” regrettably and I don’t know why it isn’t more aptly linked to “incitement to imminent action,” so that a person who drives a teenager to despair using a social media page and she commits suicide can be prosecuted because he incited imminent action. First Amendment freedoms aren’t infinite; they can be restricted as to time, place and manner and there are rulings on the limits.

      The problem of Russia, for example, isn’t that it will block the West’s Internet, symbolized by Google’s power. The problem is that simply it will build its own, create its own search engine, and make Google and the original Internet beside the point, and inaccessible. It’s Russia’s plan to make its own search that most threatens Russian Internet space, not Russia’s ability to block Google within the West’s Internet.

  • Eric Gauvin


    By using “cyberspace” as a metaphor for the internet, do you think the internet is a place</b? Can you explain more about that?

    It seems like you've listed characteristics rather than rights — "by using the internet, we have the ability to…" — rather than, "by being in cyberspace, we have the right to…"

    • Eric,
      See the post, a few posts ago, about comments; I talk about the internet as a place there. It’s something Doc Searls taught me.

    • Eric Gauvin

      Okay. I don’t think the internet is a place, except metaphorically. The Declaration of Independence you link to above is interesting and eloquent, but very science-fiction-like. There isn’t really a place called cyberspace. The internet is not a place at all. Do you really think the internet is a place?

      • Your point? Of course, it’s metaphoric. But it’s a better metaphor than internet-as-medium with all the baggage of centralized control and regulation that brings.

      • Eric Gauvin

        My point? The internet is not a place and calling for a bill of rights seems riiculous and like something from a dungeon and dragons fanatic — not a university professor.

        • Eric,
          Stop with the insults. Slap yourself down. Discuss the ideas. Fuck the insults. Clear?

      • The Internet is a place, but the problem with the hippies is that in direct contrast to their other ideologies about open source and open standards and open whatever, they actually imagine this third realm as hermitically sealed off from real life in the meat-world. No feds can ever come in and raid its servers or it would be like their original games case and the Secret Service. That maybe you would need some raids now and then to maintain law and order that ensures freedom, against things like child predators, doesn’t really register with them.

        We have to cry out for government control of the lawless Electronic Frontier these geek hippies created, because the bullying, content theft, privacy exposure, malicious dissemination of viruses and other evils they spawned on their collectivist Cyberspace model per Barlow have left us in a terrible learch today.

    • Eric Gauvin

      I read your Doc Searls reference and it seems that’s meant metaphorically.

      As for your Bill of Rights, I don’t think you can give rights to the people in cyberspace because cyberspace is not a real place. It’s just a metaphor. There are no people in the internet, so you can’t give them any rights.

      I think this is really just a list of “good characteristics of the internet.”

      • I guess we could call it “The Bill of Rights for users in the electronic medium of computer networks in which online communication takes place.”

      • Eric Gauvin

        That’s still not a place.

      • Gabriel

        Cyberspace is enough of a place that the content can be controlled and access can be denied.

        How would you feel if you entered 9/11 into Google and only found references to LOLCatz because some governing force felt the topic was to touchy for it’s citizens to read about.

        The internet is a place in the way that it’s experience can be altered, and those alterations need to be minimized and monitored or just not allowed.

        Don’t spend to much time being hung up on your definition of what a “place” is, because while your screaming about that, someone else is replacing pictures of the towers with LOLCatz.

      • Eric Gauvin

        I’m not hung up on the definition of “place.” I think it’s an important aspect of this discussion but Jarvis doesn’t seem willing to get into the details of his ideas when pressed. He always freaks out on me.

        I think someone who attempts to proclaim a bill of rights for the enhabitants of cyberspace is fanticizing.

      • People have rights already, inherently, from the U.S. Bill of Rights or the International Bill of Rights which is the UDHR as I’ve said.
        That there is some fake realm where rights are stripped away because all of life is stripped away, and that we have to reinvent an entire system from scratch is a fantasy of Jarvis’ because he and his friends just want power over people.

        Oh, and more options for Google ads.

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  • lovely points.

    When the bill of internet created, a kingdom of internet would created as well.

    Think again why states and countries are there, if the majority has a intensive value sharing through the net, why we need country?

  • colynn burrell

    Eric, get of your potty. If you cant be civil. Dont take part.

  • Andreas K. Bittner

    Point VI. What about “the right to be forgotten” ?

    Point VII. We have the right for more than one identity on the net.

  • Andreas K. Bittner

    VI. What about the “right to be forgotten” ?

    VII. We have the right to more than one identity !

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  • Great Idea Jeff. Thanks for articulating this!

  • I found it interesting to do a translation (to Norwegian), made me think issues through!

    Blogged it here: http://tinyurl.com/ylo34pp

    Anyway, feels you nailed stuff pretty ok. Main thing I feel is the need to communicate this message to EVERBODY clearly NOW. Or I am afraid we will be sorrow!

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  • “The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first.” -Thomas Jefferson

    This is the season to secure the world’s future. A time for reason and action. We are bound together by global communication.

    It is not a time for foolishness but a time to stand together for the freedom and rights of all humanity. The world is being defined now and the consequences are permanent. Measure your words carefully for you hold the future of your children in your hands.

    We can build or destroy. Use technology to our advantage or be prisoners of progress. The choice is ours.

    The Internet is the forum which now defines the future of the earth. Today’s technology empowers individuals. We must use that power wisely or suffer the consequences.

    • The two main enemies of the people today are Google, scraping privacy and enslaving people in a penny slavery, and the geek engineering class that makes APIs. Both of these forces make money for themselves, but have thought up the Creative Communism ideology to prevent others from making money online and threatening their power.

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  • Eric Gauvin

    Okay. I’ll ask you politely.

    Assuming rights are something that are given to people, and you call this “A Bill of Rights in Cyberspace,” it seems you conceive of a place called “Cyberspace” where there are people who live by these laws.

    As previously discussed, you agree “cyberspace” is being used as a metaphor for “the internet.” Or more precisely, I think, “in cyberspace” is being used as a metaphor for “while using the internet.” So we could translate this to “A Bill of Rights for people while using the internet,” which seems to make a little bit more sense.

    But it really seems like the spirit of what you’re saying is that the internet is a place with a government. You make reference to interaction with other governments and ambassadors.

    Can you explain in detail what you mean (no links please) about your concept of the internet as a place inhabited by people who have these rights?

    If your use of “cyberspace” is completely as a metaphor, doesn’t your argument just fall apart? Aren’t you really just listing characteristics of the internet?

    What is your goal with these rights? They can’t be made into laws, can they?

    My interpretation so far is that this is really an expression of solidarity among internet enthusiasts. Is that what you mean it to be, or are you really trying to say this should be some kind of international law?

    • It’s really quite simple: The internet is not a medium or a cash register. It is a connection machine that enables people to connect with each other, with information, with transactions, and actions. The metaphor of medium would turn it into a controlled, centralized, often regulated product that can be owned by someone. Yes, I can own a page on the web, but it is more my representative, my expression, the means for my links.

      • So how does the ad agency Google fit into this picture?

      • Plus, people connect. Not machines. Machines may link. People connect. You are creating a totalitarian dystopia, stop it.

    • Eric Gauvin

      That’s very interesting. Can you please answer my specific question?

    • Eric Gauvin

      …”connection machine”…?! To be honest, you sound an awful lot like the system-of-tubes guy (Ted Stevens).

    • Eric Gauvin

      Your answer is insulting and pathetic.

      My questions are not insulting, or attacking questions. Why don’t you answer/elaborate? This is central to the discussion of this important idea you’ve proposed. (Perhaps one of your enthusiastic supporters can answer for you.)

      I’m not trying to bait you into an argument. I’ve already said I don’t think the internet is a place — not a place with citizens that need a bill of rights. (And please don’t give my your stock answer, “okay, we disagree, move on…”)

      I understand how metaphors work. I understand what the internet is. (Furthermore, I think you’re mostly only referring to the social media components of the internet.)

      Can you explain in detail what you mean (no links please) about your concept of the internet as a place inhabited by people who have these rights?

      If your use of “cyberspace” (or “connection machine”) is completely as a metaphor, doesn’t your argument just fall apart? Aren’t you really just listing characteristics of the internet?

      What is your goal with these rights? They can’t be made into laws, can they?

      My interpretation so far is that this is really an expression of solidarity among internet enthusiasts. Is that what you mean it to be, or are you really trying to say this should be some kind of international law?

      • Eric,
        I have other things to do than get drawn into another drawn-out exchange with you; I’ve been there before, remember? You keep harping that I don’t say what you want me to say and put things in caps and bold. I’m not saying what you want me to say. Sorry, I guess. I think of the internet as a city or a park or a campus – pick your submetaphor – where people do what people do. We live here. We do many things here, from speaking to transacting to finding each other to get laid and, failing that, jerking off. Everything. We do smart things. We do dumb things. It’s life, teeming. That’s what I mean. Now if that doesn’t give you a picture of my mind’s eye, sorry; I’m not going to go back and forth and back and forth and back and forth, as before, again. That’s the way I see it. If you want to tell me how you see it, wunderbar. And then we shall move on, yes?

        • On second thought, Eric, I enjoyed writing those sentences about life teeming and masturbation. Thanks for making me do it. Don’t know whether it’ll satisfy you. But it did me.

      • Eric Gauvin

        You don’t answer because you can’t answer. Pathetic.

        You say there are “citizens of the Net.” You can’t support this idea other than recognizing the obvious characteristics of currently popular social media. Good luck with that.

  • Thought experiment!

    Imagine a collection of people from all nations. One section composed of two members from each country (a senate). One section composed of members representing each country’s population (a house).

    This might work for a global government but it doesn’t necessarily represent the interests of the global internet community.

    What are the interests of this global community?

    What do we expect from the internet? Security? Privacy? Individual namespace?

  • Alejandro

    Jeff, concur with your bill, may I provide a spanish version? Blogged here:

  • The global internet government already exists! It is composed of the Service Providers.

    ‘We the people’ pay significant taxes. But without proportional representation.

    We need to become united in purpose and voice. The fact is, without our financial support, the internet would be crippled.

    Can we find enough common ground to leverage that financial support in order to secure a ‘bill of rights’?

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  • There is a danger that in explicitly enumerating a set of rights, you will imply that all that is not enumerated is not considered to be a right.

    The framers of the US Constitution were very afraid of the impact of enumerating rights. This is why the “Bill of Rights” ended up being an amendment to the constitution rather than incorporated into the core document. The anti-federalists, who sought to weaken the strength of the federal government, insisted on the Bill of Rights in exchange for supporting the Constitution. Originally, the Federalists fought hard to prevent this enumeration of rights but once Madison figured out that he could write the enumeration in very vague terms and that he could include the 9th Amendment, the Federalists decided that it wouldn’t do too much damage.

    Just as the US Bill of Rights has a Ninth Amendment, so should any other explicit enumeration of rights. The Ninth Amendment reads:
    “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

    Madison explained the need for the Ninth Amendment in these words:
    “It has been objected also against a Bill of Rights, that, by enumerating particular exceptions to the grant of power, it would disparage those rights which were not placed in that enumeration; and it might follow by implication, that those rights which were not singled out, were intended to be assigned into the hands of the General Government, and were consequently insecure. This is one of the most plausible arguments I have ever heard against the admission of a bill of rights into this system; but, I conceive, that it may be guarded against. I have attempted it, as gentlemen may see by turning to the last clause of the fourth resolution.”

    An enumeration of rights, without a statement respecting those rights not enumerated, would be a very, very dangerous thing.

    bob wyman

    • Good analysis. Once we enter into discussion with government about “rights” on the internet, it gives them equal standing.

      Human history has proven that information flow is the single most important component of power and control. Martin Luther proved that 500 years ago.

      At this point, we have the upper hand and should not surrender that advantage for marginal improvement in the system.

      • So, let me get this straight.

        A handful of geeks on the Internet being suckered into some marketing or consulting plan by Jarvis and drafting a document without any legitimate participation are ok.

        But an elected, representative government that includes a parliament with the power of the purse is not ok.

        I can only ask as I’ve been doing with Jeff: who is we?

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  • In Australia we do not have a Bill of Rights. I know that seems shocking to some Americans however we have a Charter of Rights, it is not enforceable by law, it is more of a “think about it”. More and more Australians are realising we need a Bill of Rights: our aboriginal people, people with mental illnesses are often mistreated because they are unprotected. Unfortunately it’s often the Church who are against the Bill of Rights saying that we are a Christian country and there is no need because our laws are Bible-based and that’s okay. We are afraid that if we have a Bill of Rights the result may be more abortions or more Islamic favoritism. This is naive. Jesus wants to protect the fatherless, poor, disadvantaged and we need to provide legislative protection. I love the proposal for an Internet Bill of rights however I wonder whether 10-20 years from now will there be a government to enforce them? I guess we need to do it anyway. I hope that the Bill of rights is simple: it will not be controlled. How do you define this? I think you can summarise all of those bill of right dot points by saying:

    – We will not in anyway repress, restrict or control information of any type across any medium in any way unless it is of proven malicious intent; defined as premeditated intent to kill or cause physical harm to a person or damage to physical property. All views, opinions, processed or data of any person may be transferred on the Internet and anything connected to it.
    – No one company or organisation may have control over the Internet it’s resources or have the capacity to control it whether by political, financial, technological or physical means.
    – All humans have access and will be provided with means to connect
    – All humans have the right to refuse access and options must be provided for them to communicate outside of the web.

    Something like that

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  • I agree there should be a bill of rights but I really think alot will not come to an agreement. Quite Sad.

  • Eric Gauvin

    So you’re just masturbating. That’s what I thought. Thanks for being honest. :-)

    • Considering my surgical history, that’s no small feat.

  • doldana

    my lack of understanding begins in the headline. internet exists worldwide, not exclusive in america. i have problems to mobilize me to go with reading …

  • omkar From Paris

    between inflating and infatuation
    Internet is a vast laboratory. The question is the same with our goverments, international laws, relationships and future:
    1) what are we doing ? Is it another toy for the old caveman-like con consumer-cog happy decadent dirty baby we are supposed to be?

    Where is the confidence and stability we need as a human group to sustain our complete development?
    What are the beliefs behind the game. We need a new moral that mean a new way to live existence and relation with the world. We enter a new era with the nano world, quantum physics, thread theories, energetics bio med etc.

    Internet may be a mirror of what we are, we are doing. There are hopes internet will be a great tool for education but the question of MEANING is never asked. What is the project? Who will manipulate us, again instead?

    I would be glad to talk to you more but I shall leave I just saw a huge iceberg coming fast.

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  • Charles Sharp

    Cyberspace Bill of Rights

    When the Bill of Rights was written, it was done only after a long and bloody war the colonists fought to wrestle sovereignty over the land from the British. It was only after the war, when the United States was founded, that there was the time and leisure to sit back and say, “The constitution is good and necessary, but we now need a Bill of Rights to further delineate the rights and freedoms we just fought for”.

    There is a war going on, this war needed for the citizens of cyberspace to establish the sovereignty necessary to make the Cyberspace Bill of Rights the Law of Cyberland. It is an ideological war, but all wars begin as an ideology. And, as in any war, there are real world consequences.

    Where is this war being fought? It is being fought everywhere, and there are skirmishes and battles being waged daily.

    Google’s withdrawal from China is such a skirmish, Comcast’s favorable ruling for bit throttling is another such skirmish. But Google is a corporation, and like all corporations, it has to always be considering its bottom-line. Are we in the black? If not, they go out of business, they cease to exist. Google is self-paid mercenary in this war, and however benevolent it may appear, it still has its own financial interest at heart, it must.

    Where are the sides, where is the Maginot Line separating the forces? There is no Maginot Line. Every individual that uses this global electronic networking communication system that the world is frantically building everyday, is a side. Corporations and governments are a side.

    In a democracy, people have the sovereign right to vote, and by voting they proxy this sovereignty to the elected official to vote for them. But the elected officials, the government, are confused as John Barlow’s Declaration so well points out. The FCC says we have control over this aspect the electronic networking system, the judge says no you don’t. Governments all over the world are befuddled by this phenomenon called cyberspace, how to control it, but they can’t, or can they?

    The small group of men in China and who are the government are terribly afraid of this communication network. Why? Because they fear that if the people they now control only by authoritarian edict, were to freely be able to communicate, they loose their power, they would cease to exist. They could be right.

    Who are the foot soldiers of this war. It’s the electronic pulses being sent over the wires, cables and radio waves that tie together this world wide electronic network together, directed by only by a finger pushing a small button. Go forth my little electronic soldier signal, these are your orders for today, very odd.

    So how does an individual, fight to establish the sovereignty necessary to make the Professor Jarvis’ Bill of Right the Law of Cyberland? Does anyone even know there is war happening? I don’t know, but I think communicating, using, of course, this global electronic networking system called the internet, is key.

    We need some founding fathers, some guiding lights, some beacons to guide us through these most uncertain of times. I think Professor Jarvis you are one of these beacons, shine brightly, please.

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  • Magui Perandones

    Sorry about my english, I will try to do it better as possible. I have a question to Prokofy Neva. I agree with you about cyberspace “needs human rights activists demanding that human rights be fulfilled online as an extension of real life; it does not need a new bill of rights.”. But, in the other side, I agree with Jarvis when he said that the way to “change the world” is “not just putting forth grievances but creating the means to fix them”. So, my question is: ¿How do you think that human rights activists can demand that human rights be fulfilled online?

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