The Earth Party
Internet Freedom and Net Neutrality
The Earth Party proposes an Internet Bill of Rights to enshrine fairness and freedom in the use of the internet.
Why We Need An Internet Bill of Rights
The word "authoritarian" has come into vogue in recent years - mainly due to Donald Trump, and other world leaders who display a "my way or the highway" governing style.
But many of us - on both the Left AND the Right - are perpetuating authoritarianism in our own lives, via our own choices. We decry it in leaders, while heartily supporting it ourselves.
It's quite hypocritical.
This is most obvious on social media. In any discussion forum, especially those related to politics, all of the power is at the top. The people who run forums (i.e. "admins" or "mods") have absolute power to censor, silence, and ban people, at will. They can banish anyone, at any time, for any reason - even no reason at all. And there is no recourse, no redress, no appeal. The rest of the group is not informed of why the person was banned - or even that they were banned at all. They just "disappear."
This is exactly how authoritarian regimes behave. The only difference is that one is physical, the other virtual. But the structure and attitude are the same. And by accepting authoritarianism in the virtual world, we're training ourselves to accept it in the physical world. The one will eventually lead to the other.
Social media networks are what we might call "laboratories of authoritarianism."
And we're already feeling the results. Everyone knows that our politics are divided and polarized. Everyone knows the terms "echo chamber" and "groupthink." We've all read countless articles about how we're becoming ever more tribalized, surrounded by people who think like us, insulated from those whose ideas are different.
Well, do you see the connection?
Discussion forums ban anyone who disagrees with the group consensus. Anyone with dissenting beliefs is labelled a "troll", then ridiculed, cursed at, and banished.
99.9% of all discussion forums do this, no matter what their topic, and no matter which "side of the aisle" they're on. Right and Left do it in equal measure. That's the one thing these otherwise polar-opposite camps can agree on: that dissenting opinions should not be heard.
So, nobody gets to hear a different viewpoint for longer than it takes an administrator to find it, delete it, and ban the person who posted it.
That's why we have groupthink. That's why our forums are echo chambers. That's why no one ever gets to hear voices outside their worldview. That's how we've divided ourselves into tribes that inhabit seemingly separate universes. That's why Left and Right speak different languages that are unintelligible to one another.
That's why we can't communicate anymore, and can't solve problems.
WE are the ones doing this. TO OURSELVES.
So ask yourselves this:
How and why should telecom companies be expected to honor the diversity of expression and dissent, when WE won't even respect it, in our own lives, and in the forums that WE run?
If we act like authoritarians in whatever domains we control, then why should they act any differently?
The truth is, Net Neutrality is under threat because most of us don't even deserve it. We brought this crisis on ourselves.
If we want Net Neutrality back, then we have to embody the values of such neutrality in our own lives first.
The Earth Party has a solution. It's called the Internet Bill of Rights. If you declare your agreement with these rights, then you are part of the solution.
Here's the list, so far. It's preliminary, and will be expanded into further detail, but for now, here's what we've got:
1. Everyone has the right to say absolutely anything, (with the exception of direct incitements to specific acts of violence), and remain on a network.
2. For specific discussion groups within a network, admins may set their own specific group rules, but, if an admin bans someone from their group, the software must inform the group that the person was banned. No one can be banned in secret without anyone noticing.
3. Furthermore, the admin must provide an explanation for why the person was banned, and this will show up in the software-generated announcement of the banning. The notice must include the offending message - in EXACT WORDS - that warranted the banning, along with a rational explanation of how those exact words violated the group rules.
4. The banned person must have the ability to contest the banning, and defend themselves. The forum software must automatically generate a new thread for this purpose, in which the banned person can mount a defense. Although they can't start their own threads or comment in other threads, they will have one thread in which to make their case, and anyone interested in the reasons for the person's banning can go into that thread and read the person's defense (and, if desired, discuss it).
5. People who take advantage of these requirements to swamp admins with multiple, repeated, spam-like posts, may be banned from the network, but only due to their interference with other people's ability to have discussions - not for their thoughts or ideas.
6. Social media companies will have 1 year from passage to integrate these principles into their software.
7. The definition of the word "troll" is hereby set to mean a person who sabotages other people's ability to have a discussion - NOT someone who merely presents ideas that differ from the group consensus.
By the true definition of a troll, admins who ban people for holding dissenting opinions are more troll-like than the people they're banning. A troll is someone who PREVENTS discussion - not someone who expands it.
And that's the Internet Bill of Rights, so far. Do you have an idea for another item? Feel free to share it!
"But social networks are private companies. The government has no right to decide how they manage their platforms."
Like it or not, social media is where the human race now meets to discuss the pressing issues of our times. It is the new "Town Square." This is the reality.
Social media is the platform by which humanity discusses the issues of the world. It's the town square. It's an integral component of the infrastructure of our society. It's an irreplacable utility - like water or electricity - and should be treated as such, and placed under public stewardship, to safeguard its free and fair use. We have the right to regulate it.
And if we allow private corporations to manage our Town Square, and censor anything they don't like, then we no longer HAVE a Town Square. There is no where else to go. Either we take back control of our Square, or we don't have one, and our issues will never be discussed, and our problems will never be solved.
The Town Square is an integral aspect of our society's vital infrastructure - we can't function without it. And since it's so fundamental, We the People have the legitimate right to step in and take control over it, to manage it for the free and fair use by All.
This is why we have public oversight of utilities, like water and electricity. The utility company can't shut off your lights or water because you said something they didn't like.
The same goes for the phone company. They can't disconnect your phone because you criticized them. And the reason they can't is because We the People have decided to publicly oversee these companies' operation. We've decided that our vital infrastructure is too important to leave up to the whims of corporate executives. At least in these areas...
So the internet should be treated in the same way. We the People must take conscious control over its operation, to ensure that it remains free and open.