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Jeff Jarvis Headshot

Support for the Disconnected of Egypt

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Governments are the single point of failure for the internet and thus
for the public's tool of empowerment. We are seeing that in Egypt today
as the government ordered a shutdown of the internet as a whole
in the country. We have seen that in the past when Libya shut down .ly
domains it did not like. Our internet is too fragile.

I took some solace from Clay Shirky reminded me today that by the time
governments shut down the internet or its services, it has so far been
too late: the protestors are organized. I tweeted that and someone
responded that the lesson for tyrants is: take care of the internet
first, the protestors second.

The chicken-egg debate about the credit the tools of the internet and
publicness deserve in Iran and Tunisia and now Egypt is rather
pointless, even offensive. These tools were stolen from the public by
a government trying to forbid them because they are a means of
shifting power. They do not belong to government. They belong to the
public, who are using them to claim their rights as the public.

I am in Davos where, in 1996, John Perry Barlow wrote his href="https://projects.eff.org/~barlow/Declaration-Final.html">Declaration
of Independence for Cyberspace. It becomes only more relevant:

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of
flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On
behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are
not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I
address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty
itself always speaks. I declare the global social space we are
building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to
impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess
any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.

Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.
You have neither solicited nor received ours. We did not invite you.
You do not know us, nor do you know our world. Cyberspace does not lie
within your borders. Do not think that you can build it, as though it
were a public construction project. You cannot. It is an act of nature
and it grows itself through our collective actions.

At a session here at Davos on governance in a new-media world (their
words) we discussed the inevitability of greater transparency through
these new tools and the need for principles to govern those who would
govern it. (I'll write more about that later.) This is why I am
working on my own suggestions for such a set. ( href="http://www.buzzmachine.com/2010/12/10/bill-of-rights-in-cyberspace-amended-2/">Here
is the most recent version of a constantly changing list; I no longer
call it a Bill of Rights but instead a set of principles and, again, I
ask for your help in framing the discussion).

The first and most fundamental principle is that we have a right to
connect. Egypt violated that principle -- that human right -- today.

We, the people of the internet, the citizens of this eighth continent
(as the CTO of the U.S. VA calls our newly discovered world) must
stand in support of the disconnected of Egypt. I don't have the
eloquence, passion, and credentials of Barlow, so I will not pretend
to be able to respond to the call made by @jwildeboer href="http://twitter.com/jwildeboer/status/30957761214808064">proposed
on Twitter just now: "Will Netizens at #WEF publish support statement
for #Egypt? Or are they too busy talking to Tycoons? cc @JeffJarvis"

Yes, such a statement of support should come from each of us,
particularly those of us here in Davos. This is mine. Yours?