When millions of Internet users unite, big things happen.
Earlier this year, more than 13 million people joined up to stop twin bills -- the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act (SOPA and PIPA) -- that would have irrevocably damaged the open Internet.
As those millions of activists made clear, we shouldn't mess with online openness. It's at the core of why -- and how -- the Internet has revolutionized culture, politics and community across the globe. Without the freedom to express and share what we want, our laptops, tablets and phones would be little more than 21st-century television sets.
But for years, powerful interests have sought to limit online innovation and free speech. And for years, Internet users have come together to protect net neutrality and to fight for universal access to an affordable, high-speed, open Internet.
These big fights remind us of the fragility of the free and open Internet -- and that if we don't fight to protect it, no one will.
We need to keep engaging in these fights. But we also need to go on the offensive.
So this week a group of more than 100 organizations, business and individuals is putting out a Declaration of Internet Freedom -- five principles outlining the basic freedoms that all Internet users should enjoy.
Here's the text:
We stand for a free and open Internet.
We support transparent and participatory processes for making Internet policy and the establishment of five basic principles:
Expression: Don't censor the Internet.
Access: Promote universal access to fast and affordable networks.
Openness: Keep the Internet an open network where everyone is free to connect, communicate, write, read, watch, speak, listen, learn, create and innovate.
Innovation: Protect the freedom to innovate and create without permission. Don't block new technologies, and don't punish innovators for their users actions.
Privacy: Protect privacy and defend everyone's ability to control how their data and devices are used.
The release of this document is just the beginning of a movement of we, the people, to make these five principles -- Expression, Access, Openness, Innovation, Privacy -- true in every corner of this world. Everyone is encouraged to interact with the text -- you can agree or disagree with it, debate it, translate it, make it your own, and broaden the discussion -- in a way no platform other than a free and open Internet can allow.
The fact is, powerful interests around the world would prefer your computer was a TV. That way they could contain political dissent, prop up their aging business models and maintain the status quo.
The power struggle to keep the Internet from becoming yet another locked down, one-way medium is what the fight to stop SOPA was all about. And it continues to this day as Internet users protest overreaching cybersecurity bills (CISPA), harmful international trade agreements (ACTA) and the monopolistic zeal of the cable industry.
Please take a moment to read the Declaration of Internet Freedom and discover all of the ways you can interact with it and help to protect the open Internet (you can add your own name over at SavetheInternet.com). I hope you'll agree that these principles are worth fighting for.
Follow Josh Levy on Twitter: www.twitter.com/levjoy