An Internet-rights petition, called the Declaration of Internet Freedom, started on Monday and has already gathered more than 20,000 signatures.
Supporters include Mozilla, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Reporters Without Borders. Individual signatories include Andrew McLaughlin, a former White House deputy chief tTechnology officer, and Nick Grossman, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, as well as professors from Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society and Stanford University Law School’s Center for Internet and Society.
The Declaration of Internet Freedom focuses on protecting free expression, promoting Internet access, supporting new technology, and preserving data privacy. The petition, organized by a media-policy group called Free Press, was inspired by the fight against the Stop Online Piracy Act this year, said Josh Levy, the group’s Internet campaign director.
“We realized we had a real opportunity to push forward and take this collective energy toward stopping something and apply it toward building something, to protect the thing that we know and love,” Mr. Levy said. “It started out as a conversation about policies—net neutrality and broadband access—and then we realized that those are means to certain ends, but what are the ends? So we came up with this, the most essential part of what Internet freedom means.”
In the spirit of focusing on the ends and not the means, the declaration has stopped short of suggesting specific legislation, he added. “Rather than wade into the policy muck where we’re all going to be divided at some point, why not see what we can come together around? We had earlier versions of this. They were much more specific but not as powerful, and not the kind of thing that millions of people can rally around.”
The petition is being discussed on a variety of blogs, including Reddit, TechDirt, and Github. Several partner organizations are running their own versions; while Free Press has not received numbers from those groups, its own campaign has exceeded 20,000 signatures on the first day.
Free Press hopes to spend July promoting the petition and then to hold a series of Internet-freedom meet-ups in August.