A Declaration of the Interdependence of Cyberspace

On the anniversary of John Perry Barlow's issuing 'A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace,' a response and alternate call to action

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The Internet has no elected government, nor is it likely to have one, but this does not mean it is not governed. The Internet is ruled, as are all technologies, not only by the norms and beliefs of its users, but also by the laws and values of the societies in which they live.

You allege that government has had no role in the Internet, and for this reason it has no claim to the Internet today, but this accusation is founded on nothing more than ignorance and superstition. Government labs and government-funded research programs gave birth to the Internet's essential technologies, and government policies continue to guide the development of important Internet innovations today.

You denounce legitimate authority and tell us we must choose anarchy or face tyranny. Your claim is nonsense. Liberty does not diminish in the presence of collective action but rather flourishes in vibrant and well-organized societies.

You have no moral basis to declare the Internet a no-man's land of anarchy and lawlessness. The rights of man do not end where the Internet begins, nor should governments relinquish their duty to govern at the borders of cyberspace.

You declare that the rights of humans to determine the fate of that which their minds create are null and void on the Internet. Casting aside the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, you proudly proclaim that any ideas or property you can steal from others should be yours to reproduce and distribute freely in cyberspace. We reject the fiction that the Internet gives you the freedom to disregard basic human rights of property, expression, identity and movement. The rights to life, liberty and property are natural to man and preserved by the societies we build and the governments we elect.

You claim to be advancing society on the Internet through a new social contract devoid of government influence, yet you have often dismissed or ignored the problems we face today. While many problems can be solved through self-governance, many others require government action. The governments of the world, not merely your virtual personas, have been at the helm of most initiatives to provide more universal access to the Internet, to foster digital literacy, and to limit digital crime.

All around the world you are trying to fend off the hand of government even when it governs legitimately. At times government may overstep its authority or exercise it imprudently, and we must cry out when it does, but that does not mean all government is unwelcome. When we fear tyranny, we must expose it in all its forms. Tyrants are no more likely to appear in the halls of government than in the committees of technical standards bodies.

We do not want an Internet governed by the nations of the world, but neither do we want an Internet divorced from government. We seek a balance that recognizes both the rights of the individual and the benefits to the community of well-ordered systems.

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