Why I’m suing the U.S. government to protect internet freedom

Birgitta Jónsdóttir writes: Freedom for most people is something sacred, and many have been willing to sacrifice their lives for it. It is not just another word, for we measure the health of our democracies by the standard of freedom. We use it to measure our happiness and prosperity. Sadly, freedom of information, expression and speech is being eroded gradually without people paying much attention to it. Freedom of movement is permitted within certain zones, freedom of reading is disappearing, and the right to privacy is dwindling with the increased surveillance of our every move.

When the world wide web came into being, it was an unrestricted, free flowing world of creativity, connectivity and close encounters of the internet kind. It was as if the collective consciousness had taken on material (yet virtual!) form and people soon learned to use it to work, play and gather. Today’s social and democratic reform is born and bred online where people can freely exchange views and knowledge. Some of us old-school internet freedom fighters understood this value way before the web became such a part of our daily lives. One of them is John Perry Barlow, who in 1996 wrote a Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace in a response to an attempt to legalise restrictions on this brand new world. In it he declares: “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.”

Barlow inspired me and others to create the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), a parliamentary proposal unanimously approved by the Icelandic parliament in 2010, tasking the government to make Iceland a safe haven for freedom of information and expression, where privacy online would be as sacred and guarded as it is in the real world. The spirit of IMMI is in stark contrast with the serious attacks we are currently faced with. We have legal monsters like Acta, Sopa, Pipa and now Cispa; we have anti-terrorist acts abused to tear these liberties apart; we have armies of corporate lawyers scrutinising every bit of news prior to it getting out to us before we ever get to know the real stories that should remain in the public domain.

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