Bill of Rights in Cyberspace, amended

I’m still refining my thoughts on a Bill of Rights in Cyberspace — the latest version in preparation for tomorrow’s PDF symposium on WIkileaks and transparency. The idea is to have principles we can point to when dealing with such events as Wikileaks, Google/Verizon, Google/China, and so on. Try this on for size:

I. We have the right to connect.
II. We have the right to speak freely.
III. We have the right to assemble and act.
IV. Information should be public by default, secret by necessity.
V. What is public is a public good.
VI. All bits are created equal.
VII. The internet shall be operated openly.

Earlier versions are here and here. I’ve taken out the simplistic notions of controlling our data and identity, after realizing that we can’t control either. We should, instead, have access to information whenever possible, by default; I think that better covers both our needs to get to our information and our needs to get to information in our government and in business.

At the PDF event, I want to talk about the need to discuss principles we can point to when we see violations of these rights. If we do not set these standards, then we cannot hold governments and companies to them.

I will also talk about the idea that we are passing from a world organized around power-to-power transactions to one based on peer-to-peer engagement. I’ll argue that we in the press, especially, must defend Wikileaks’ right to free speech as it speaks truth to power. I’ll say that we must make transparency government’s default; we are far from that and risk moving away from that target rather than toward it.


: LATER: Some have pointed out that I don’t have a privacy clause. I’m struggling with how to craft it, for as I’ve found in researching my book, there is no single definition of privacy. To say that we have a right to it makes us ask what the ‘it’ is. I like danah boyd’s construct, that what should be regulated isn’t the gathering of information but the use of it. The idea that information should be transparent by default goes part-way there: we should have knowledge of what is being collected about us. I’m insure of the next step: action about that. Of course, I want to be careful about overregulation of information, for that quickly impinges on the right to speak. Thoughts?

  • Interesting proposals and thoughts, as ever, professor. Couple of reaction.

    First, you might consider referring to or integrated Freedom House’s efforts on this count. Here’s a relevant slidedeck on Internet freedom and an Internet Bill of Rights.

    The Internet Bill of Rights that came out of Rio a few years ago (via Bruce Sterling at BoingBoing) layers on a few additional points;

    “Privacy, data protection, freedom of expression, universal accessibility, network neutrability, interoperability, use of format and open standards, free access to information and knowledge, right to innovation and a fair and competitive market and consumers safeguard.”

    There’s some expectation of privacy offline. Online is its own beast, though given your current writing project you’re one of the last people in the world I need to remind of that!

    The issue of data, however, might merit some more consideration. On that count, here are 8 principles f open government data from for your consideration.

    “Government data shall be considered open if it is made public in a way that complies with the principles below:

    1. Complete
    All public data is made available. Public data is data that is not subject to valid privacy, security or privilege limitations.
    2. Primary
    Data is as collected at the source, with the highest possible level of granularity, not in aggregate or modified forms.
    3. Timely
    Data is made available as quickly as necessary to preserve the value of the data.
    4. Accessible
    Data is available to the widest range of users for the widest range of purposes.
    5. Machine processable
    Data is reasonably structured to allow automated processing.
    6. Non-discriminatory
    Data is available to anyone, with no requirement of registration.
    7. Non-proprietary
    Data is available in a format over which no entity has exclusive control.
    8. License-free
    Data is not subject to any copyright, patent, trademark or trade secret regulation. Reasonable privacy, security and privilege restrictions may be allowed.
    Compliance must be reviewable.”

    Quite curious to see what comes out of further revisions here. As it happens, I saw the original Bill of Rights, Constitutions, Declaration of Independence and a copy of the Magna Carta today in the National Archives…so I’m a little more warm about the role and importance of founding documents than the average evening.


  • Dan Krivolavek

    I think you are right on all counts. I really think this whole fiasco may have been drummed up just for this very thing. It all seems rather fishy to me. Hope it winds up the way you describe.

  • Maureen

    The problem is that, the way you’ve written your Bill of Rights, there’s no right to ban spammers, no right to ban trolls or even stalkers, and no right to put anyone in Coventry to protect the rights of other users. That goes against the way the Internet has worked since the beginning.

    I know you’re not a newbie. You don’t have any excuse to be clueless.

    • And you don’t have to be rude…. indeed, trollish.

      • east33rd

        We should have the right to ban Maureen.

      • What you propose is absolutely necessary. We have the UN talking about controlling the internet with Brazil as being the leading state to push this. I don’t think the UN is the right body, if indeed any institution is the right body to be deciding about controlling the internet. I certainly don’t want any state or self appointed institution deciding on behalf of the world of internet users, of every kind, what they can and cannot do.

        What you propose is necessary as fundamental rights, universal rights to the use of the Internet to be adhered to by all states and all institutions, the UN included, all internet uses.

        All Bills of Rights have enforcement clauses and a mechanism would have to exist to ensure that internet rights are maintained and are upheld. And are seen to be upheld.

        Rights in the United States are upheld by the courts. No such body exists at present where the Internet is concerned.

        Were it to exist, one would have recourse against arbitrary acts such as those taken by various commercial enterprises against Wikileaks.

        I think that Maureen is making a very valid set of points, however inelegantly she phrased them.

        I think you did yourself, her and the readers of this post an injustice by simply dismissing it. What she says deserves an answer from you. If you have one. If you don’t say so.

        I think she was being pointed not rude. You owe her an apology.

        If I am allowed to I shall make other comments as I study the other comments.

  • You have exactly the same rights in “cyberspace” that you have in any other part of your life, neither more nor less.

    The only distinguishing feature of cyberspace comes into play if you pay to be there, in which case you’re entitled to the service you purchase, neither more not less.

    But even that is simply the application of a right you have outside of cyberspace, whatever you may mean by that outdated term.

    • I take exception to your exception to cyberspace exceptionalism. :-)

      Seriously, the Internet has characteristics of its own, which are neither reduced nor reducible, to the boundaries of what one buys.

      It’s also unfinished, or perhaps even (as Prof. Peter Schickele put it, unbegun). Which means — at least to me — that the kind of mulling out loud that Jeff and friends are doing here, is good to do.

      FWIW, the privacy issue for me is the biggest one, and the one most in need of visiting, even if Jeff carefully keeps it off the edge of the table, at least in this post.

      • Richard Bennett raises two vexing set of issues. I think he is right. Cyberspace is too cute a term. The term most of us would use, and prefer to use is Internet. It is universally understood.

        “You have exactly the same rights in ‘cyberspace’ that you have in any other part of your life, neither more nor less.”

        This is a statement without substantiation offered and may or may not be correct.

        It is easily argued that it is not correct. Any internet user can engage in actions which are difficult or impossible to do in “any other part of” the user’s life. There are endless possible examples.

        An internet user could engage in action which exposes the user the laws of a country outside of the one he or she resides in. The English hacker undergoing extradition to the US is a case in point.

        “The only distinguishing feature of cyberspace comes into play if you pay to be there, in which case you’re entitled to the service you purchase, neither more not less.”

        This is more difficult to answer. If the first statement is held to be true, then the second statement argues, it is also true.

        The first statement is not true and the second statement can be broken into three parts.

        Access to the internet can be gained without have to pay for entry or having to sign terms of use. If you own backbone, for example. Such internet users are in a far superior position to those who pay for entry.

        Every internet access provider will have terms for use. Those terms of use are quite unlike anything I would choose to sign in every day life. I would take great care, for example to avoid buying a house which was part of housing association with deed restrictions.

        “you’re entitled to the service you purchase” is perhaps the most problematic part of the statement.

        The Internet needs to be seen as a utility, as something fundamental as water, electricity and sewerage. When you pay for entry to the Internet it is not akin to paying to enter an amusement park.

        At present every paying internet user is subject to the arbitrary discretion of the Internet Access Provider. The gatekeeping is too fundamental to be left to arbitrary powers.

        Let’s be clear about this business of arbitrary powers. Read the terms and conditions of use of, the host of this very blog.

      • Do we rights in “telephone land” distinct from the rights we have in real life because the telephone network enables us to reach out and touch people around the world? I don’t see any. If anything, the rights we have for things such as speech, assembly, and privacy are weaker in telephone land than IRL. If your speech is commercial, you have to observe the Do Not Call list, you can only assemble with one person at a time without paying additional fees, and you have very limited privacy rights. The one rights construct that’s specific to telephone land in the US is the Carterfone right to connect non-harmful, certified, compatible devices, but that’s terms of service issue.

        The rights constructs that apply to Internet Land derive from Carterfone and common carriage assumptions about transport systems. I would argue that these are terms of use rights that affect the citizen’s relationship with a service provider, and as such are IRL conditions. Mike Powell’s Four Freedoms of Internet access are an expansion of Carterfone doctrine to a network of programs rather than the single-purpose devices Carterfone was about. Programs don’t have rights, but people do.

        So what’s unique about Internet Land? It’s a particular form of behavior, not a place with unique laws and sovereignty. So the starting assumption is that you have Bill of Rights rights in Internet interactions, except these rights are the lesser of the rights you may have in all of the countries your Internet interactions traverse. When I’m interacting with someone in Saudi Arabia over the Internet, what I can say and do is bound by the laws of both SA and the US.

        Rights come from a relationship with a sovereign, and the Internet is not a sovereign or even a place. It’s a set of behaviors anchored to multiple real-world end points. End-to-end system, remember? Where the ends are determines the law.

      • @Malcolm DB Munro: You say: “Access to the internet can be gained without have to pay for entry or having to sign terms of use. If you own backbone, for example.”

        Nope, it doesn’t work that way. The Internet is not a free-standing, black box system, it’s a mesh of networks that connect according to commercial agreements. If yo build a backbone network, you have to negotiate agreements with 80,000 networks in order to “access the Internet,” or some smaller number of networks that have agreements to interconnect with the others. In a literal sense, the Internet is a fiction. What really exists is a lot of free standing private networks, and whatever terms of interconnection they have with each other.

  • By the way, Tom Colicchio is a horrible chef.

  • The real question is, will this generation fight for an online Bill of Rights? The threat will be disguised as a move to protect our privacy or our security. The motivation will be to keep us in our place. The price we will pay will be to accept the risks that come with embracing liberty.

  • All of the items in this ‘Bill of Rights in Cyberspace’ are interesting, most are desirable, but its important to be clear about what rights are in reality, when making up an important list like this.

    Rights cannot be created by a simple declaration. Rights are fundamental to human nature, just as wetness is fundamental to liquid water. Rights are finite in number and discoverable through logic and reasoning.

    Just as in physics, there are a discrete and limited number of elements from which all matter can be made, the rights that man actually has, the true, fundamental rights are small in number and sufficient to protect everyone’s activities from predation by governments and individuals.

    We must distinguish between rights, and goods that we want to protect and encourage respectively.

    Here is a lecture on the true nature of rights:

    by Thomas Woods:

    By the end of it, you will understand what rights are, where they come from and why, for example, there cannot be a ‘right to internet access’ as some politicians are now claiming there should be.

    Its great that people are thinking about how the good that is the internet and the power of it should be protected. In order to do that, its essential that couch the problem of the attacks on it in the correct terms; that is why we absolutely must use the word ‘rights’ correctly.

    • Not correct. Rights, in human terms are declared rights. To be upheld and maintained. Rights are not fundamental to human beings. You commenter and Mr Woods have it wrong.

      It is not a matter of opinion. This is fuzzy thinking. Wetness is intrinsic to water. Wetness cannot be separated from water, just as humanness is intrinsic to humans.

      Rights can very much be separated from humans. That is why they have to be declared in the first place and upheld in the second.

  • Jeff, looking forward to discussing this more at PDF. I want to point out, though, that in the last ten years Internet Rights Charters and other forms of a “bill of rights” have been debated, culminating in a number of seminal documents and declarations that spell out already (after much deliberation and debate, incidentally) what you do.

    That is not to say that more debate is not needed (it is, and more importantly, ways to ratify and enforce some of the elements of a ‘human rights charter’ for Network Rights, as we call it) but to ignore what has come before in this context is probably not a good idea. I put up a quick blog post that outlines some of the debates and documents from the last ten years (notably, the WSIS declaration and the APC Internet Rights Charter) that are, in many ways, seminal documents. Take a look and hope we can discuss some more later on today.



  • I think the problem of privacy is contained in defining “necessity” in “IV. Information should be public by default, secret by necessity.”

  • I think I would add something to the effect of, everything is known, whether the access to that information or not is possible being something else.

    If there was a government census which revealed important or implicating information which was considered hazardous or threatening then I would want to know that the data exists and why it is a potential threat. I would not want that information readily available to an enemy of the people.

    So I think the key difference is making a distinction between data and information. Data being the potential hazard, while information being recognized as opinion open for discussion in a democracy.

  • Gary Peyrot

    What does it mean that all bits are equal? This is a catchy phrase alluding to the wording of the US Declaration of Independence but I don’t catch the real meaning.

  • Jeff,
    I appreciate the seriousness of your post and the mostly mature responses to it which you’ve received but, I feel compelled to add a bit of intentional tongue-in-cheek to the list of “rights” and, I’ll tell you why…

    Using the following 6 of the 7 proposed rights,
    I. We have the right to connect.
    II. We have the right to speak freely.
    III. We have the right to assemble and act.
    IV. Information should be public by default, secret by necessity.
    V. What is public is a public good.
    VII. The internet shall be operated openly.

    I’d like to add
    VIII. The Internet should aid virality (or, at least, not impede virality)

    The reason I mention this is from my own experience as someone focused on social media branding and sharing, I wanted to share “Bill of Rights in Cyberspace, amended” with my contacts on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Google Buzz, etc. but, to my deep chagrin, noticed that there is nothing directly on to help me help generate more buzz about this very useful post.

    I believe many of the serious IT professionals within my networks would love to know about this particular post. And, I believe I would have already shared it with them were it easier to do so via such things as the heavily used social media blog plugins for Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Google Buzz, etc.

    The above aside, I’ve long enjoyed being a BuzzMachine reader, Jeff…

    Keep STRONG!
    +Vincent Wright

    • When I first read that, I thought you said “virility.”

  • AlineD

    i absolutly agree!

  • Rogue M

    while i agree that some protections are needed. i vehemently disagree that people have the right to illegally transfer copyrighted works. music, movie, tv.

    sorry, those worlds have been hurt by filesharing and piracy … real protections need to be offered. There is not any right to steal and hurt others.

    what about the rights of the people that are being stolen from? sorry, just disagree on this issue alot.

    • A. Nonymous

      Any similarity between Jeff’s thinking and actual legal principles are purely coincidental.

      First, cyberspace isn’t a place, let alone a jurisdiction. So who will grant or secure these rights? Second, the physical infrastructure of the Internet doesn’t belong to the government (perhaps it should, but it doesn’t). So your relationship with your ISP is contractual more than anything else. Third, the idea that all bits are equal is not even desirable to most people: You may not want to have you VOIP prioritized over span, but most people do. Fourth, Jeff’s understanding of rights is flawed. Like most digital utopians, he sees copyright as a limit on free speech. But U.S. courts, in Harpur & Row v Nation Enterprises, among other cases, also see it as encouraging free speech. I could go on . . .

      I’m sure this comment will be deleted, but this really doesn’t demonstrate a very sophisticated understanding of the issues.

      If you *do* delete this comment, are you violating my right to free speech? No, because my right to speak doesn’t mean I can speak on your property. OK, fair enough. But then why does your right to speak mean you can speak on your ISP’s property?

      There are plenty of smart arguments to be made about these issues on all sides. But this is just grandstanding.

      • Good point. Rule IX: There is a right to grandstand in Cyberspace, and everyone must approve.

  • Pingback: Huffington, Rosen and Other Digerati Dig Into WikiLeaks at NY Forum | Neon Tommy()

  • Lest we forget the lessons of the original war over the future of the internet, which the Obama administration is already trying to revive, I propose an addition:

    VIII. The right to encrypt data, and to communicate in an encrypted, anonymous, or pseudonymous fashion, shall not be infringed.

  • I’m sure you don’t want to hear from me again after my objection today at PDF to your manifesto here but sorry, you’re a big and influential and affluent man with many powerful connections and organizational resources behind you, and I’m just a freelancer without resources. I see what you are doing as a threat to rights, not a promotion of rights, and when that happens, I show up — I’m a human rights activist.

    First of all, as I explained, we don’t need some new set of rights to claim the right to freedom of expression on the Internet — we have it in the First Amendment; internationally, we have it in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And note how it works here at home: the state doesn’t confere you this right, dispensing this largesse, rather; “Congress shall make no law such as to restrict…” this right. The state gets out of the way of what *is* — and indeed it does.

    That means it is a negative, not a positive right; and as the constitution says, “we hold these rights to be self-evident” and all men are “endowed by their creator with certain inalieable rights”.

    Freedom of expression is inherent and inalieable; whether you believe it comes from God or “just is” is immaterial; but it doesn’t come from Google. It doesn’t come “from the network”. It doesn’t come from a “stateless news agency” that you and your friend WikiLeaks makes. It does not — most certainly does not! — come from “peer-to-peer engagement”. That’s precisely why I call it a threat to rights, and not rights: it’s privileging the tribe; it’s privileging the new meritocracy to which Andrew Keen referred and to which you belong. I’m not interested in this new regime; I prefer the government I elected and which appoints judges to adjudicate these kinds of cases.

    Amazon appears to prefer this too; they aren’t filing suit against the government or claiming they were pressured over WikiLeaks.

    If you get your way, Amazon will be forced to do whatever your stateless gang thinks should be “right”. It will be forced to enforce the First Amendment even to the danger of national and international security! And right of way then goes to “Here Comes Everybody”. Now, be careful what you wish for, Jeff — if that happens, you won’t get to ban me from your blog. Care a little bit more about private property now, thinking of it that way?

    And speaking of private property, that’s my other major objection to your revolutionary manifesto, which isn’t a rights document. You want to proclaim “public” what is “a public good”. That’s a highly politicized statement that means really what you want to do is nationalize or collectivize the Internet on behalf of some power (Google?) and require, for example, that my friends’ list on Facebook and all my data there be scrapable by Google, and be pourable into other applications “just because”. My proximity data — who I am friends with — what I say to them — isn’t your business. Just because you’re an engineer making an ap and you can *see* my data, because you happen to be on a friendship list, doesn’t mean you get to slurp up all my data along with yours. That’s why I go to Facebook and not gmail — because I don’t want you to do that. I’m fine with Facebook being a walled garden. Go away, Google! It’s bad enough you take up half the page of search results now in Facebook, and they’re irrelevant!

    Your “public good” statement could also be construed to mean that all entities on the Internet have to be free public entities and not private property. Sorry, but information doesn’t want to be free; it wants to be paid, because it’s attached to humans, and they need to eat. I see you agree when you list all your business interests, where you are PAID for your information that turns out *then* “doesn’t want to be free”.

    The Internet must have private and public property and private and public places. That’s freedom! Choice!

    Your “all bits are created equal” is merely an effort to smuggle in the “Net Neutrality” agenda. Never was a more fake campaign pretending falsely to be “free speech” ever made! Even your friend Google finally dumped the ruse and made the deal with Verizon. And rightly so; businesses have to take care of the bottom line; they can’t endlessly pipe your Lost episodes, WoW patches and giant insurances files from WikiLeaks. You have to pay; or your provider has to pay (and IS paying); Google isn’t paying — and that’s why they cooked this up, to get other people to pay.

    This is being strenuously debated. You cannot declare it by fiat on behalf of a transnational geek junta with WikiLeaks and Anon as agitprop disseminators and enforcers. I suspect the gambit Genachowski is trying to cook up will fail; there will be a compromise. And that’s ok. That’s the DEMOCRATIC political process.

    Which is not what your “bill writing” caper is. Normally, first there is a constituent assembly; then later comes a bill of rights after debate. Sure, you want to ecstatically compress that into a flashmob and online contributions by the principle of “the tyranny of whoever shows up*.

    But who are you? What power will back these rights? Google? Because that’s basically what you imply. No thank you.

    We also don’t need a new right to assemble and act. We have it already in the Constitution and the Universal Declaration. And with all your talk of “Internet people,” we know you don’t mean Amazon and Paypal and the Swedish lawyer and many others who refuse to be bullied or overthrown by the rogue WikiLeaks. You like other trendy gurus need to clarify you position on whether you believe that coercion and even destruction or disabling of property is “ok” as “a form of speech”. I think you’ll find many grownups who don’t think it is. I think you will find that the people who pay you money, as distinct from the people who read your columns, don’t think that it is.

    I don’t think that the DDOS is a form of free speech; I think it’s a form of coercive extreme action unacceptable in any social movement, and also a crime. I reject utterly the claims that it is “a technical matter” that “isn’t so terrible” — I believe its damages should be defined by the victims of the tactic, not its perpetrators or the tribe of hackers.

    No tribes.

    Privacy begins with private property. You should respect it more than you seem to, it is what enables you to be paid.

  • @Alex

    Your link there isn’t working.

    Freedom House, a group with considerable experience in this field (and where I happened to work years ago) doesn’t mean the same things you mean or Jeff as lefty technologists mean by Internet freedom; nor even does Secretary Clinton as it evolves. Certainly neither of them means that Amazon and Paypal “have” to support WikiLeaks; indeed, they don’t construe that as freedom, but as most likely crime.

    Neither of them propose some new generation of rights to added on top of the existing Constitution or international treaties. In fact, FH spent years fighting the New World Information Order, the Marxist onslaught on genuine freedom of expression that would force media outlets to abide by state controls.

    Doc Searls and other Internet gurus want to create cyberspace as a separate realm because it would privilege above all the powers of coders. I’m not interested in handing the power of the realm I live and make my living in over to coders, especially with their collectivist world views and anti-copyright, anti-property, and anti-corporate perspectives.

    If you want to have a socialist revolution, have one. Use your existing rights to freedom of speech and assembly, and have it. Don’t pretend what you are doing is a “rights fight,” however. It’s not.

    Be honest. Stop it with the stealth socialism a la the Micah “Pop Front” strategy of PDF. Stop the fakery involved in the Tim O’reilly “Civic Commons” shill. It’s a political, social-system fight. You’re entitled to it. But be honest about it. Then see who shows up. Not everyone wants to be in the InternIntern.

    Katrin and Irdial are telling Jeff a lot more politely than I will that much has been done in this field and you need to learn about it. But WSIS is in many respects the old New World Information Order bargain again, collectivism and statism and assigning of social roles forcibly to the media to “help development” or “end poverty” etc. Freedom of expression groups have been very critical of WSIS, in fact, and those most active in defending media freedom in fact tend to give up on WSIS as it is hopelessly compromised at the UN, with all the bad actors there.

    I’m not willing to be polite about this because I see you consciously or unconsciously making common cause with the same powers globally that want to use the “need” for Internet “rights” as a way merely to impose the old Marxist agenda. You may not like capitalism and its works; I certainly criticism them. But they do not involve the coercive and communism, and that’s what makes possible even your very bid to overthrow the system.

    AJ Keen said today that the old order is passing and there is a new order. But it need not be one predicted by Orwell.

    • Coder


      >coders, especially with their collectivist world views and anti-copyright, anti-property, >and anti-corporate perspectives.

      Drivel. I started coding in the early 70s, and started making a good living at it in 1980. I’m hard pressed to think of coders who actually fit your stereotype. OK, Stallman, and a few of his ilk.

      Apparently you’re so anti-commie that you’re creating Marxist strawmen to slay. Not to take any wind out of your rants, but most all coders are just trying to make a living. Give us a break, ok?

      • A. Nonymous

        The “rights” Jeff suggests will trample on our human rights.*

        “Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.”
        -Article 27, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

        *Removing this post implies that Amazon did nothing wrong by removing Wikileaks.

      • Hardly Marxist strawmen. Look here at Doug Rushkoff:

        “The internet’s failings as a truly decentralized network, however, merely point the way toward what a decentralized network might actually look like.

        Instead of being administrated by central servers, it would operate through computers that pinged one another, instead of corporate-owned server farms, and deliver web pages from anywhere, even our own computers.

        The FCC and other governing bodies may attempt to defang the threat of the original internet by ending net neutrality. But if they did, such a new network — a second, “people’s internet” — would almost certainly rise in its place.”

        That is a call for a collectivized, “free”, non-corporate, non-commercial, non-capitalist *socialist* Internet to be created parallel to — or to replace by even coercion? — the existing commercial network.

        Net Neutrality in fact *is* part of that plan to create an Internet that hobbles corporations and further nationalizes the Internet.

        Dave Winer, Rebecca McKinnon in her discussion of darknets, and others here at the PDF all call for a similar kind of Internet of “free” that corporations “can’t touch” and therefore can’t control as a private property — hence an undermining of the notion of servers/bandwidth/software-as-a-service etc all as commodities in a free market:

        This isn’t some Stallmanite aberration; this is an increasingly held worldview of technologists, and one that matches the early pioneers who wanted everything to be “free” and who terribly resent commercialization and “walled gardens”, whether it comes from Amazon or Facebook.

        Let’s start right here on this page asking Jeff Jarvis whether he means that corporations cannot be on the Internet anymore (in the name of “Internet freedom”) — yes or no.

        Let’s ask what he means by “making public the public good”.

        Let’s ask where *he* is going with his vision of Net Neutrality and who he thinks should pay for bandwidth. The taxpayer?

        You coders “just trying to make a living” have your paid jobs or your helpdesking on weekends or your bartending while you contribute free to opensource projects. But most of you hold the dream of non-copyright, non-property Internet which you hope YOU can exploit to make YOUR living (“no business but my business”) but from which you wish to banish all business you don’t like.

        Hence the justification of the DDOS for taking down PayPal and Mastercard; hence Huffington Post’s corporate chair hiring Moot — the guy from the site that coordinated these attacks! —

  • Eric Gauvin

    Hi Jeff,

    Are videos of PDF going to be available online?

  • Eric Gauvin

    Oops sorry, this must be it:

  • Be careful with number VI as it it is to easy for that to become ‘all bits are created equal but some bits are more equal than others’. Orwell was obviously aware of this weakness in this claim that can be abused by those in power. Love number IV.

  • First off, big fan. Looking forward to your post on your recommendations for Stern.

    I’m wondering if there shouldn’t be a principle relating to context or abuse.
    By context I mean the hyperlinked or in-line information to frame the information provided. Abuse is a closely related principle. Whereas you were incredibly open regarding your Dell Hell dialog, scores of copycats regularly threaten well meaning companies with smear campaigns unless demands are met. Yet they continue to wield significant influence online, and well meaning corporations fear whistle-blowing on the populists.

  • On the issue of privacy, I believe there should be something tied back to a “reasonable expectation of privacy”, or perhaps the “right and ability to define our own privacy” through account settings and the like. Food for thought anyway.

  • Pingback: WikiLeaks US embassy cables: live updates | Rubytall News()

  • Doc Montresor

    Well Jeff, Number V: Your books are public. Are they a public good now? May I copy them, print them and distribute them for free?

  • Doc Montresor

    Sorry, I have to be more precise since this is for cyberspace:
    May I copy your books digitally and put them online for free as a public good?
    And if not, why not?

    I don’t want to be trollish, I am really interested in your answer because this is the main point for me: Why don’t you publish your books online for free if you are so convinced of the things you write about?

    I know that this is a bit off-topic because this is about news and wikileaks etc. But with a statement like “What is public is a public good” you have to deal with the copyright issue, too.

    • I’ve answered that scores of times. In my book, I confess to the hypocrisy of it. The system still pays; I have a kid in college; the system distributes books better; the system demands copyright; I took the check. I’m doing the same for the next. For the project after that, I want to try to do something new. We’ll see. In the meantime, you can read all of WWGD? for free at the HarperCollins site.

    • Eric Gauvin

      Yes. It’s clear. You really know how to work the system. Good luck with that, Professor Jarvis.

      • I said the next time you came here to do nothing but insult…..

  • Pingback: AJ Burnett Divorce? - Huffington Post - Jhen.Org | Information Update Here()

  • Pingback: Rétropective 2010 | Webdorado()

  • Pingback: Bill of Rights |

  • Pingback: P2P Foundation » Blog Archive » Jeff Jarvis proposes 6 basic rights for cyberspace usage()

  • I’ve thought a lot more about this and looked at all the comments, pro and con, and I think it comes down to these questions:

    1. Is your Bill of Rights going to be enforced by the U.S. government, or by some Wired State, as I call it, you, your friends, darknets, p2p networks, etc.? Who is the enforcer?

    2. Is your Bill of Rights actually just a kind of corporate policy you’d like corporations to enforce as a social good? Well, I”ve taken apart that argument here:

    3. Is your Bill of Rights merely a new media marketing campaign, i.e. putting some radical political policy in rights-speak?

    If you reply something like, “I really believe the U.S. government should enforce this, that’s a legislative campaign” — is that what you propose?
    Or overthrowing the government (I’ve never heard you call for that, exactly.

    If you reply something like “I just want ISPs to do the right thing,” then it’s a policy — and such prescriptions inevitably are far worse than actual law — I’m for server providers actually enforcing the First Amendment VOLUNTARILY as a marketing concept, as a service-level agreement.

    If you are positing some ecstatic new free real in the Metaverse that is beyond meat-world constitutions and governments Where We Can All Be Free (I think that’s what you mean), well, Jeff, is it “I am the Sun” or “I am Disappoint”.

  • Not sure all your commenter got your point.

    Isn’t it the case that the 7 principles were offered for discussion and widespread adoption, not as Jeff Jarvis’ written in stone Bill of Internet Rights? Did I get that wrong?

    And, at the end of the day, is not the case that an Internet Bill of Rights, upheld by an appropriate authority, might seek to force those many countries throughout the world that extensively filter and block their citizens access to the internet to curtail this activity.

    Is it not to those citizens and well as our own that the 7 principles are directed?

    • Eric Gauvin

      Professor Jarvis’ escape hatch is often that he was just conducting a “what if” thought experiment.

      Problem is, this is a revised/edited version, so it leads one to believe that he’s going somewhere with this. However, I doubt he thinks anything like this would ever be adopted. I think he just wants the publicity.

      • ALWAYS the insult. ALWAYS. Enough, Eric, enough. Find a new bone to chew on. Your own leg, perhaps.

      • Eric Gauvin

        I doubt you will/can answer Catherine A. Fitzpatrick’s questions above?

    • Eric Gauvin

      @ Malcolm anyone else who cares,

      This is what Jeff Jarvis is talking about when he says there’s a “history.”

      I previously tried to get Jeff Jarvis to explain details of what he calls “the link economy.” (the link economy doesn’t seem to come up much anymore…)

      I put together this blog page:
      (in rereading it, I have to say it’s pretty funny)

      But the funniest thing about this is that as part of his meanderings about “the link economy” he at one point announced his adamant belief that we have a Right to Link.

      But get this, later when he listed his Cyberspace Bill of Rights he forgot to include “the right to link.” A commenter pointed this out and Jarvis acknowledged that he forgot it (“how could I forget it”).

      It appears Jeff Jarvis again forgot to put the “right to link” in his Cyberspace Bill of Rights.

    • Yeah, and that’s why we are discussing them, and debating them criticially, but apparently there is little tolerance for that.

      Instead, while purporting to “discuss” them, Jarvis isn’t doing that at all. He’s not commenting or answering questions.

      Any “Internet Bill of Rights” run by the United Nations, for example, would be a horror. You have only to follow the recent struggles at the UN over the issue of the “defamation of religions,” i.e. the attempt to make a global blasphemy law so that one cannot criticize religious bodies, or theocratic states, to understand why you most definitely cannot have the UN take over the Internet or defense of “Internet rights,” however they are understood.

      We already have “Internet rights” under our own natural Bill of Rights under our U.S. Constitution, and in fact the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights Art. 19 also upholds the same principles — you don’t need to embellish that essential freedom of expression with socialist precepts about “equality of bytes” and all the rest that only begin to take away, not give rights.

  • Jeff, with all due respect you are doing it again.

    Eric Gauvin is not insulting you. He is goading you. As with Maureen above, he deserves a reply, not a put down.

    I suspect many of the people who follow your posts are interested to know if, as Eric says, the 7 points are simply a thought experiment or are they something you would like to see embraced and adopted.

    Alex Howard pointed to a link to Internet freedom and an Internet Bill of Rights. Unfortunately, it calls for a version 9 Flash. My version is already version 10 and won’t recognize it. I wonder if there is alternative link?

    Finally, while Catherine A. Fitzpatrick’s comments are difficult to tease apart, I think Eric is right. She raises some valid points.

    So, I would say, Eric Gauvin, let’s toss the ball back to you. Which of Catherine’s comments do you feel are worthy of Jeff’s attention.

    A note of thanks to you, Jeff, for providing this forum. It is difficult to cope with comments. You are to be complimented on having the space open at all.

    • Eric Gauvin

      I think question #1 is the key to understanding what Jeff Jarvis means by his Cyberspace Bill of Rights.

    • You need to see the history here. It is never ending. Though it may end momentarily.

  • Hmm. Dig around a bit and it is amazing what you find. We are all a bit behind the curve. Quite a bit of catching up to do.

    “The proposal of an Internet Bill of Rights was first conceived at the outset of the World Summit for Information Society, in Tunis, 2005.”

    “These rights and principles – deriving from Internet policy discussions – include, among others, privacy, data protection, freedom of expression, universal access, network neutrality, interoperability, global reachability of all Internet nodes, the use of open formats and standards, public access to knowledge, and the right to innovate, as well as market-oriented principles such as the right to a fair and competitive online market, and consumer rights in general.”

    Both statements above are from the Joint Declaration on Internet Rights
    by the Minister of Culture of Brazil and the Undersecretary for Communications of Italy signed Rio de Janeiro, 13 November 2007.

    The above is from the Internet Rights and Principles Coalition at

    Many of the issues raised here are being addressed there.

    Given that the Internet saw its birth in the United States, looking through the website there seems not a great deal of participation from the United States.

    I wonder if there is a general awareness in the US of this activity.

    • I’m not behind the curve at all. I’ve been following that Tunis issues and their precursors at UNESCO for ages. And that’s EXACTLY why I don’t want to see any Jarvis-inspired or ANY “Internet Bill of Rights” which will only reduce the actual freedoms we already have under our Constitution and undermine the existing media freedoms of UN treaties — which is the purpose of some of the very bad actors in Tunis among states with authoritarian regimes.

      Of course there is “awareness” of the US of this activity — but they resist it resolutely, as do other democratic states, because there are many things contained in these “Internet Rights” antithetical in fact to freedom.

      You have to understand the very toxic UN context you’re working in when you cook up international treaties of this sort. There is not good will. The U.S. is NOT the problem here.

    • Read Wikipedia on the WSIS story here:

      It highlights some of the problems but doesn’t tell the whole story — there’s the obvious problem of Tunis hosting such an effort, when it is busy harassing and jailing its own bloggers and journalists.

      There is mention of the role of some NGOS, but not all — there are others who’ve been attending and expressing grave concerns about the essential spirit of all of this which you can see from the get-go at the top of the Wikipedia article — it’s NOT Internet freedom, but the usual world social justice agenda of balancing inequity, developing the undeveloped, etc. etc.

      Now, that may all seem politically correct and “progressive” to some ears, but you have to follow it through — it can start to mean assigning social roles and mandated coverage and PC restrictions on the media that are unacceptable.

      You can see that the U.S. government position here *pushes back* on some of that inherent socialism and calls for a *strong private sector* on the Internet.

      Of course, the Personal Democracy Forum gang who convened a meeting of the InternetIntern don’t really like the private corporations on the Internet — some of their speakers called forthrightly to get rid of them and Dave Winer warned wildly of how “journalism is not possible now in the cloud” because of Amazon’s refusal to host WikiLeaks.

      At the end of the day, must of Jeff Jarvis’ thinking seems to follow the new technocommunist ideology that I always critique, yet at some level, he knows that companies like Google have to promote some notion of capitalism or they wouldn’t get paid, and he works with companies that are capitalism.

      So that’s why I want him to start with a clarification of the nature of the social system he is promoting before we have to sign up for a Bill of Rights that is merely a bill of goods with a stealth-imposition of a social system.

  • A more immediate and increasingly pressing problem is of blogging rights.

    This affects every blogger, including many of the individuals posting to this site.

    For example, see my Who Defends the Blogger? – Who Dropped the Ball on the Blogger in Australia? at

  • Pingback: WikiLeaks CableGate: Weekend Updates |()

  • Pingback: Bill of Rights in Cyberspace « HEARTS at MINDS !?()

  • Pingback: Support for the disconnected of Egypt « BuzzMachine()

  • Jeff-

    I adore the sentiment in this (I’m revisiting this post because of your post in support of Egypt).

    I would caution 2 things:

    1) I will offer you James Madison’s original objection to a specific bill of rights, which I believe has borne out to be well founded in the last 225 years or so:

    a) It was unnecessary, since it purported to protect against powers that the federal government had not been granted;
    b) It was dangerous, since enumeration of some rights might be taken to imply the absence of other rights; and
    c) At the state level, bills of rights had proven to be useless paper barriers against government powers

    2) “The Internet shall be operated openly” is a loaded phrase, and “open” much like “network neutrality” means very different things to different people. “Open” is just a susceptible to unintended consequences as any other well-intentioned restriction

    As always, adding my “Yeah, but…”

  • Gee Jeff,
    Why limit rights to the Internet? The Egyptian government along with most of the rest of the developing world’s governments routinely tramples on all human rights including the right to property, the right to sell the products of one’s labor, freedom of speech and assembly, and the right to buy imported produts or to solicit foreign investment in one’s enterprise.
    This lack of rights improverishes most citizens of the developing world while enriching a few. Meanwhile our own democratic governments raid our savings through inflation, artificially restrict most trade, and steal our incomes throgh confiscatory taxation.

    • Yes, of course, but here I’m just talking about the internet action. Context.

  • Lillie

    Perhaps distinguish between negative and positive rights? And add the responsibilities that go with the rights?

    My own belief is there should be no claims without duties and no duties without claims.


  • Pingback: Carta de Direitos do Ciberespaço por | Reflexão | Inovação Social()

  • Listing and refining these rights is a worthwhile effort. Thanks for your continuing work on this, Jeff.

    I have a question and hope you have given some thought to the answer:

    Is listing these rights enough? If we want them to become globally meaningful, what next steps can we take to get corporations, governments and other Internet gatekeepers to abide them?

    Voluntary efforts such as the Global Network Initiative are well intentioned to be sure, but hardly enough to stop bad actors from continuing to violate our right to connect, censor speech and crackdown against online dissidents.

    What could be done to make this enforceable?

  • Pingback: Some links to Internet Bill of Rights « 3apparatchik's blog()

  • Pingback: We the People need our existing Bill of Rights to apply in the digital domain - O'Reilly Radar()

  • Pingback: The blotter: Week ending 19 December 2010 | ARTS & FARCES internet()

  • Pingback: Carta de Direitos do Ciberespaço por Jeff Jarvis | Editora Artesanal Monstro dos Mares()