Even though it has been about one year since Edward Snowden received his official criminal charge from the U.S. government, Internet activists and political reformers have not allowed the topics of Internet privacy and freedom to fall to the wayside whatsoever. The sheer amount of dialogues that were opened up in the wake of Snowden’s actions has sent many heads spinning. In emails, websites and messages across the entire Web, Internet activists have been pushing forward for authentic reform in unparalleled levels.
While Snowden is just one of a number of highly revered boundary testers, his movements towards exposing truth were monumental in scope. His actions led organizations and companies such as Mozilla, Avaaz and MoveOn to build petitions that would demand the President, National Security Administration (NSA) and other government bodies to redress the discontent over freedom and privacy within everyday Internet use.
NETmundial, the Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance, will take place on April 23-24 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Sao Paulo, Brazil. A campaign called Our Net Mundial (ONM) is campaigning aggressively towards maintaining a full-bodied representation of citizens across the world in respect to Internet regulation, neutrality, data retention and universal access. Both individuals and organizations can sign the petition that ONM has provided on their site, and the composers of the petition have made a point to keep the draft as concise as possible.
The Internet Governance Principles document provided by NETmundial for this week’s conference is described as “lacking any strength”, as according to Our Net Mundial’s petition. ONM’s interests as they pertain specifically to the global conference are ensuring that the average citizen’s rights are protected when accessing the Internet, not least of which is privacy.
ONM is frustrated that the document NETmundial will use to shape new regulations and laws about the Internet does not mention anything about NSA surveillance, nor the active participation of Internet giants such as Google, Facebook and Apple in harvesting information about users. This is definitely suspicious, as one would think that if NETmundial was not concerned or internally conflicted about these topics in any fashion, that the global conference would be willing to openly discuss the topics in their documents.
It does not seem like Internet activists, particularly those in Brazil, will stop until all of the terms in their forward push for reformation have been met. Even Dilma Rousseff, the president of Brazil, has not taken lightly to the public release of files regarding the U.S.’ means of surveillance. She was the first to bring together the NETmundial Forum, where individuals could discuss the future of the Internet, and ideal tactics for the allowance of freedom.
In spite of this fact, the organizers at ONM are not content with the state of affairs preceding the Global Multistakeholder Meeting. They feel that since the core documents for the movements of the meeting are not articulate enough, they must take matters into their own hands. Even Internet experts Ben Wagner and Milton Mueller wrote in a recent paper, “it is hard to see what the Brazil conference could add.”
It has also been over a year since Aaron Swartz passed away, but an equal number of powerful and influential movements have arisen from Swartz’ work and impression on society. The multi-talented “hacktivist” was deeply mourned after his loss, but while alive was responsible for the founding of Demand Progress (DP), an online activism hub that specializes in the fight towards Internet freedom, primarily through petitions. DP was most recently on the frontlines in terms of organizations that are forming petitions centered on net neutrality. DP’s petition on this effort was to prevent large corporations or government bodies from having open access to user data, as well as limiting access to the desires of users.
Due to the fact that such activists are as diversified and spread out as the Internet itself, the efforts of big corporations and power players within the governments of the world are more likely than not to come up short. Even Joe Trippi, author of The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, comments on the unstoppable nature of Internet culture: “The Internet’s roots in the open-source ARPAnet, its hacker culture, and its decentralized, scattered architecture make it difficult for big, establishment candidates, companies and media to gain control of it. And the establishment loathes what it can’t control.” This quote is indisputably precise in describing the attitude of the many establishments that attempt to invalidate the power of democratic initiative
The future of people like Edward Snowden cannot be spoken on with absolute certainty, especially whether or not he will see the end of his days in Russia, the U.S., or somewhere else. Internet activists, however, will proceed in the endless development of their intangible force, pushing forward on all fronts for the reformation of the Web.
Opinion By Brad Johnson