Earlier this year, a massive Internet blackout strike and millions of signatures on online petitions put pressure on Congress and defeated the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), two bills that would have allowed the government and big media conglomerates to censor the web in the name of protecting copyrighted material.
Now, the coalition of activists and groups that led the fight against SOPA and PIPA have issued a Declaration of Internet Freedom, and after only a few days of online circulation, more than 100 groups and more than 33,000 individuals have signed on in support. Truthout has decided to join them.
There will be more SOPA-like threats to web freedom in the future. From Amnesty International to Mozilla and Cheezburger Inc., web entrepreneurs, developers and activists agree that the fight to protect the Internet from censorship, surveillance and discrimination is only beginning.
As witnessed during the Arab Spring and the rise of the Occupy movement, the Internet gives grassroots social movements the ability to quickly organize big groups of people, share information, build solidarity and hold those in power accountable.
Allowing big business and the government to censor and regulate the web would also stifle innovation and give media conglomerates a competitive edge against entrepreneurs and start-ups.
SOPA, for example, would have granted big media conglomerates the power to ask the government to investigate and even shut down innovating web start-ups if users used the platforms to post or share copyrighted content. The Declaration of Internet Freedom demands that leaders do not punish innovators for their users' actions.
The Declaration of Internet Freedom also aims at protecting privacy, freedom of expression online, affordable access to the web and an open network "where everyone is free to connect, communicate, write, read, watch, speak, listen, learn, create and innovate." At Truthout, we believe freedom of speech online and everywhere else is a basic and vital human right.
We must be proactive about protecting our freedoms online. Free Press, one of the groups promoting the declaration, hopes it will spark a "global discussion" about protecting the Internet in the future. The online discussion has already begun on sites like Cheezburger and Reddit.