(originally posted on Civic MIT)
Fight For the Future is known for its massive viral organizing campaigns that changed Internet history both nationally and globally. Faced with the passage of Stop Online Piracy Act/SOPA and the Protect-IP Act/PIPA — legislation that would have jeopardized the open Internet as we know it — Fight for the Future organized the largest and most visible online protest in history. Holmes Wilson has also co-founded Miro, OpenCongress, and Amara. He’s been at the forefront of a range of open internet and participatory culture projects and campaigns.
The internet delivers newfound powers of expression
The key thing about the internet that drives Holmes’s passion for it is that it gives us a new power, which ultimately translates to freedom of expression. But not in the conventional sense. The freedom of expression the internet enables isn’t just about speaking. It’s about making art, starting a business, overthrowing a government, building a new government, realizing dreams, and the ability to give your greatest gift to the world. When we think about expression this way, it’d be unthinkable to fail in preserving this medium. It would stifle human potential.
But that power is inherently fragile
The internet is fragile. The power that is being given to people is not necessarily stable and there are significant threats to it. The most present threat of the recent year is SOPA/PIPA. In some ways, these seemed like very small reasonable changes to the law. There’s a law that says sites aren’t responsible for content that users generate and this would make site owners responsible for users’ content. The consequence would have been that any copyright holder could have taken down any site where their content appeared and any site that is built with user generated content would have to aggressively police user behavior and contribution. Most of the harm would have been invisible. If SOPA was in effect when YouTube was first invented, we wouldn’t have YouTube.
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