On January 18th, 2012, CDT joined thousands of innovators, technologists, advocates, and individuals from across the political spectrum in an online blackout and protest demonstrating broad opposition to the two bills, which had the potential to wreak havoc on the Internet. The bills failed in the face of that unprecedented online revolt, which marked a watershed moment for the politics of Internet policy.
In the year since, this loose-knit and diverse Internet freedom coalition has successfully:
- Joined together to promote key principles for a free and open Internet in The Declaration of Internet Freedom;
- Advocated for major improvements to cybersecurity legislation;
- Stopped a privacy-invasive data retention mandate proposal dead in its tracks;
- Urged national governments to reject proposals at the World Conference of International Telecommunications (WCIT) that would threaten the exercise of human rights online; and
- Helped achieve unprecedented bipartisan support to secure the same privacy protections for Internet communications as postal mail and phone calls by updating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA).
The year ahead promises more fights for individuals’ rights and the freedom to innovate on the Internet. Chief among these will be the effort to finish what was started in 2012 by passing ECPA privacy reform out of both Chambers of Congress.
But a pall is cast over this day by last week’s suicide of Aaron Swartz, a co-author of the RSS 1.0 specification, an early builder of Reddit, a founder of Demand Progress, and a stalwart advocate of an open Internet who played a key role in the victory that we celebrate today.
At the time of his death, Aaron was facing the possibility of years in federal prison for alleged violations of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), a dangerously vague and overbroad law that CDT has long urged Congress to reform. In the wake of Aaron’s tragic death, Representative Zoe Lofgren has posted to Reddit a draft bill to begin that process of reform. In the spirit of the open Internet that Aaron championed, CDT has been collaborating and will continue to collaborate with allies like EFF, ACLU and Stanford’s Center for Internet & Society in an open process on Reddit to provide suggestions on how that draft can be improved and expanded before it’s introduced. Fixing the CFAA is long overdue, and we hope that this tragedy will at the very least spur Congress to finally enact these much needed reforms.
Those who fought to stop SOPA and PIPA last year, Aaron included, represent a diverse range of Internet users and organizations, opinions and tactics, but we were united by the simple vision of an Internet that is open, not closed; favors innovators, not incumbents; is a tool of freedom, not control. And though we mourn the loss of Aaron, CDT celebrates this day and looks forward to 2013 with a sense of renewed purpose and determination to continue working with our allies in the pursuit of that shared vision: a global network that is open, innovative and free.