What do you get when you round up an enthusiastic group of digital rights experts, online innovators and advocates of Net Freedom – all with the purpose of taking any and all questions from members of the Internet community?
If yesterday’s Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit is to be any indication, this arrangement of opinions creates an engaging, provoking and open-ended conversation. It was a discussion that worked to unite the Internet Freedom movement and invoke action to be taken against the counter-intuitive Internet restrictions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.
Along with Steve Anderson and Reilly Yeo of OpenMedia answering questions from the Reddit community, we were joined by our StopTheTrap.net coalition partners at EFF, Public Knowledge, Electronic Frontiers Australia, Public Citizen and InternetNZ.
To help provide some insight into the state of the Internet today – and what could become of the Internet tomorrow – we were also joined by prominent online innovators including Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, Mike Masnick of Techdirt, Andrew Rasiej from the Personal Democracy Media, Elliot Noss of Tucows, Michael Tippett from Ayoudo, Cheezburger Network CEO Ben Huh and Professor Michael Geist.
We received questions asking about the copyright restrictions of the TPP, words of encouragement from our OpenMedia allies and open-ended inquiries about the Internet of tomorrow.
P10n33R asked “What do you consider the #1 threat to our Internet freedoms as they stand today?”, a question that certainly resonates with a number of everyday citizens. We replied:
It really depends on where you are in the world and it's certainly changes based on who you ask. It's hard to know which initiative is the most dangerous. I think it's the TPP for those in the affected countries. Some are concerned about proposals the UN agency called the Internet Telecommunications Union will impose, creating new Internet restrictions. I expect for the next while we'll need to stay vigilant to fight off new attempts to restrict internet freedom by those who wish to protect their outdated business or governance models.
While more and more people are becoming aware of the TPP’s Internet trap everyday, many are still unfamiliar with how it will affect the Internet. User kbrooks echoed this sentiment, to which we answered:
The TPP (which stands for Trans-Pacific Partnership) is a multi-nation trade deal that seeks, among other things, to rewrite the global rules on intellectual property enforcement. Those rules would likely supersede the rules of any participating nation.
One of the main problems with the TPP is that it's being negotiated behind closed doors. But from leaked documents, we know that the TPP would give Big Media new powers to lock users out of our own content and services, provide new liabilities that might force ISPs to police our online activity, and give giant media companies even greater powers to shut down websites and remove content at will. It also encourages ISPs to block accused infringers’ Internet access, and could force ISPs to hand over our private information to big media conglomerates without appropriate privacy safeguards.
There's a bunch more info on the StopTheTrap.net campaign page site (including the footnotes).
The invasive Internet restrictions in the TPP have clearly struck a chord with Internet users, as user RelaxRelapse questioned if these extreme laws would ever decrease in severity. We answered by saying that.
With the successful fight against SOPA and ACTA the tide does appear to have turned on restrictive copyright measures -- at least with public opinion. The fact that media conglomerate lobbyists are trying to use trade agreements to get these provisions through suggests they are getting desperate. I suspect their attempts to layer on new Internet restrictions will continue for at least the next several years, but we are at place now where we can and should start pushing the other way. One exciting initiative where Internet users are starting to develop our own priorities for digital policy is the Internet Freedom Declaration.
With the Trans-Pacific Partnership becoming a hot topic, user Abuzz was a bit hesitant about adding their name to the StopTheTrap.net campaign – questioning if online petitions do make a difference. Coming off of a national win for Canada on another online campaign, we were eager to reply:
Absolutely. We describe the process a bit here. In short though, when people come out in numbers (even online) and add their voices to a message by signing a petition (and sharing it on social media, talking about it in their community, etc), it can become really hard to ignore.
We at OpenMedia, at least, have seen a bunch of wins, and it's all because of our community coming together, contributing ideas, and rallying around the issues we all care about.
Many of the questions that came through in the discussion were actually heartfelt comments from our engaged OpenMedia allies and donors. User kushanagi wrote about how everyday citizens are becoming increasingly unaware of the dangers to their Internet use, stating that “Without groups like [OpenMedia], we would be in a really bad place”. Our reply was simple:
Everything we've been able to do has been because citizens (yes you) have done the legwork. We're just a small team in an even smaller office, and without people like you who have organized protests and even those who have just clicked-through a petition, we'd be hooped.
You've gotten engaged in these issues, you've added your voice to the conversation, you've informed others—thank you.
Finally, user turnipradish looked to the future – as most of us do – in asking what the Internet would look like 10 years from now. Our answer?
If we all stay active and engaged, fight back against threats like the TPP's Internet trap, and keep looking forward, it'll be whatever users choose to make it.