Days before the anniversary of the United States Declaration of Independence, Internet advocates, human rights organizations, and activist groups have banded together to create the Declaration of Internet Freedom. As a coalition created to oppose SOPA, ACTA, PIPA, and other attempts to control cyberspace, the Declaration of Internet Freedom has five key principles: Expression, Access, Openness, Innovation and Privacy. The document is “a set of principles providing a positive vision to preserve the Internet as a platform for speech, innovation and creativity.”
So far, the Declaration has been signed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Access Now, Amnesty International, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF), Free Press, Human Rights First, Reporters Without Borders, as well as Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, to name a few.
Censorship is defined as “the suppression of speech or deletion of communicative material which may be considered objectionable, harmful or sensitive, as determined by a censor.” During the 1990s, a Neo-Conservative view of the world could be summed up by referring to the “Globo-Cop” term. As this idea was rejected, one must keep in mind that the initiative to have one body controlling the entire realm of cyberspace is just as ludicrous of an idea.
In this digital age, the Internet has revolutionized politics, culture, economy and society, therefore, Internet censorship would not only leave many media outlets vulnerable but it would also restrict freedom of speech. The Internet was created with the idealistic idea that free exchange of information and ideas can break down cultural divisions, broaden education, and promote social development.
Cyber and media ethics therefore go hand in hand. As many media outlets have followed the trend of online information sharing, we have seen the rise of citizen journalism. Social media serves as a powerful tool for spreading information efficiently and in real-time. Furthermore, this form of expression has allowed for information to travel farther, faster, and be made available longer. Would it be ethical to shut down an outlet for free speech and timely information sharing? Though this Declaration might only be a guide to how the Internet should look, it will force debates and discussions about Internet freedom and hopefully stop it from becoming a one-way-medium.
To find out more about the Declaration of Internet Freedom, to read the preamble or the Declaration itself, or to sign it, click here.