Future 500 | Finding common ground between uncommon allies

Is access to the Internet a human right?

From October 2-3 2012 Future 500 organized four panel discussions called the “The UnConvention 2012”. The UnConvention theme was chosen because the event happens one month after the end of the 2012 political conventions, and one month before Election Day. These panels brought together leaders from across the political, business, and NGO spectrum to discuss difficult issues in an open and respectful way. This post summarizes the panel discussion Digital Freedom: Securing an Online World that Generates Greater Innovation, Prosperity, & Freedom

Digital Freedom is an issue that Future 500 sees as rising in prominence, because of its vital importance in our daily lives.  The internet has enormous potential as a force for good (not to mention innumerable cute pictures of cats).  The internet allows people to cut through constraints on business, government and civil society, educate themselves for freeoverthrow oppressive regimes, and access rural medical care, among many other uses.  The implications of keeping the internet free cannot be overlooked.

Digital Freedom

Future 500’s Senior Stakeholder Engagement Manager Rebecca Busse and John Perry Barlow from the Electronic Frontier Foundation

As with any revolutionary technology that holds great power, a free internet threatens the status quo, and many are struggling to limit its power.  Many governments and corporations support legislation such as SOPA, PIPA, ACTA, the TPP and now WCIT in order to regulate control of the internet.  What does this acronym “alphabet soup” of legislation represent?  That the internet may not remain free, and that internet service providers could become “internet policemen” to enforce regulation – unless we do something to stop it.  The internet was founded on open source principles that allow for equal access “for the people, by the people” to the sum total of humanity’s knowledge, but this freedom only remains while we protect it. The Digital Freedom panel opened with this question: is access to the internet a human right?  A discussion ensued on the meaning of Digital Freedom, and panelists reached out to business, government and civil society leaders to help keep the internet free.  Now is the time to ensure that the people who use the internet every day – not just governments and companies – have a say in how it will be used.  During the panel, our guests implored attendees to contact congresspeople and to become educated about this crucial – and under-publicized – issue.  Stay tuned for further news on the future of the internet as we know it!

Rebecca Busse, Senior Stakeholder Engagement Manager at Future 500 and moderator of the panel.

Thank you again to our panelists:

  • John Perry Barlow, Co-Founder, Electronic Frontier Foundation & Former Lyricist for the Grateful Dead
  • Jim Harper, Director, Information Policy Studies, Cato Institute
  • Harold Feld, Legal Director, Public Knowledge
  • Michael Petricone, SVP Government Affairs, Consumer Electronics Association

Media Coverage: An Internet, “If you can keep it”, Public News Service, October 7, 2012


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