The Internet: Journalism? Terrorism? Matchmaker? Bully? Surveillance? Research? Espionage? Information? Networking?
With Wikileaks dominating daily headlines and the FCC proposing a regulated substitution of net neutrality, it’s hard to say except for this– Internet is an exchange, at its best, a free-flowing exchange, filled with both legitimate and bogus resources that maintain equal grounding in existence for our own informed discrimination.
Whether or not we like what we read, seeing different viewpoints in print validates them and opens channels to debates that wouldn’t otherwise exist without the prolific flux of alternative and non-mainstream voices. What we find, what we believe, that’s our choice, but the bottom line is that online content is out there, and to restrict access to one thing creates nothing more than a domino effect to restrict access to all things.
The web is more than just a global platform; it’s a community, our flat world, a common ground that makes the world smaller, global interactions more immediate, and access more accountable.
Yet like any communal and democratic entity, the governing principles of the Internet, freedom and openness, only exist as long as we vigilantly fight for it. For those who want to join, here are five organizations committed to free exchange and access to online content:
1. Electronic Frontier Foundation EFF is an international non-profit legal organization of lawyers, policy analysts, activists and technologists, all advocating for digital rights. Founded in 1990, this leading civil liberties group calls itself “the first line of defense” in “confront[ing] cutting edge issues defending free speech, privacy, innovation, and consumer rights today.” While most of their victories are achieved within the courtroom, they do maintain an Action Center where anyone can sign up and help by sending emails and faxes to elected officials regarding issues the organization has taken on.
2. Global Internet Freedom Consortium Founded in 2006, GIFC is a group of organizations advocating for and developing anti-censorship technologies in countries where Web-based information access is controlled. The consortium works primarily with the issue of Internet freedom in closed societies such as China, Iran and Burma.
3. Global Network Initiative GNI is a non-governmental organization working towards two goals: prevent Internet censorship by governments, and protect Internet privacy rights of individuals. Founded in 2008, in the 60th anniversary year of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, GNI works to make sure that the document’s standards of human rights, freedom of expression, and privacy rights are carried out into the digital world. Its support is widespread, coming from corporations such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo; non-profits such as Center for Democracy and Technology, Human Rights Watch and World Press Freedom Committee; and educational institutions such as Harvard University, UC-Berkeley, University of Hong Kong and University of Southern California.
4. Latinos for Internet FreedomLatinos for Internet Freedom is “a coalition of local, regional and national Latino organizations and leaders” that advocates for an open-access Internet that “continues to provide Latinos with good jobs, health care, education, small business innovation and connection to our families, community and neighbors.” Because of the high population of Latinos and Hispanics in under-served communities, Latinos for Internet Freedom has been active in questioning the FCC’s latest “net neutrality” proposal, arguing that it could lead to telecom companies charging higher prices for Internet speed on websites catered to under-served communities. Not only could the proposal create a a digital divide, Internet speed and access could become a new class divide.
5. Save the Internet Save the Internet, a project of Free Press, is a coalition of about two million people and thousands of non-profits, businesses and bloggers, all committed to keeping the Internet a level playing field for all so that it can remain “a crucial engine for economic growth, civic engagement and free speech.”
Photo courtesy of codiceinternet via Flickr