One of the emerging Internet freedom movement’s greatest assets — the hyper-aware, ever-connected, techno-libertarian crowd that has fervently supported Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) for president — is about to become one of it’s greatest opponents.
Paul and his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), are taking up a new project that, according to a report published Thursday by BuzzFeed, will “serve as a counterpoint” to the Declaration of Internet Freedom released this week by some of the Web’s leading activists, journalists and technologists.
Paul and his large, enthusiastic contingency of supporters were a cornerstone in the fight against the draconian Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), joining with civil libertarians on the left to defeat the bill in the largest work stoppage protest the Internet has ever seen*. Paul was also one of the first national politicians to come out strongly against the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which he said would let corporations “act as government spies.”
In a manifesto obtained by BuzzFeed reporter Rosie Gray, which the Pauls’ Campaign for Liberty organization is expected to release later today, the Declaration is lambasted as “Internet collectivism,” a thing it calls “pernicious” in all forms. It also suggests that using the law to cement the freedom of Internet users to view and interact with any content they desire is, in and of itself, contrary to the cause of freedom.
The document specifically calls out progressives and the very technology companies it seems to praise for bringing about the Internet “revolution,” accusing them of “hijacking the language of freedom and liberty to disingenuously push for more centralized control.”
“‘Openness’ means government control of privately owned infrastructure,” the Campaign’s document explains. “‘Net neutrality’ means government acting as an arbiter and enforcer of what it deems to be ‘neutral.’ ‘Internet freedom’ means the destruction of property rights.”
However, that seems to be a severe distortion of what the Declaration actually calls for.
The core tenets of that document are generalized and easy to understand: core principles like “don’t censor the Internet,” “promote universal access,” “keep the Internet an open network,” “protect freedom to innovate and create without permission” and “protect privacy and defend everyone’s ability to control how their data and devices are used.”
And that’s precisely what the Campaign for Liberty will soon say is antithetical to “freedom.”
Instead, they will push back against what’s commonly described as the First Amendment of the Internet — a fundamental rule that’s been mostly just assumed since the Web’s inception — and support the private property rights of network owners to do as they please.
That would mean the ongoing Department of Justice antitrust probe of suspected U.S. cable company collusion to limit options for online videos would be out of the question, effectively clearing the road for the big providers to completely dismantle companies like Netflix through anti-competitive business practices.
It would also mean that Internet providers could slow down or completely block users, apps or whole websites engaging in activities they don’t like; permit voluntary, corporate-sponsored censorship; foster the continued rise of so-called “walled garden” networks blamed for increasingly fracturing the open Internet; allow increasingly tighter data “caps” being imposed on a growing number of Americans; and enable network providers to cable-ize their portions of the public Internet while dedicating vastly more developmental resources to costly, corporate-run “super tier” networks.
In other words, the Campaign’s new focus isn’t actually all that new: They are going to be promoting the classical tenets of libertarianism — and all the problems that come along with it — writ large across humanity’s global communications platform. And therein lies the problem.
The Campaign for Liberty did not respond to a request for comment. The Campaign’s manifesto, as reported by BuzzFeed, follows below.
Photo: Flickr user nealaus, creative commons licensed.