… or at least I should have said so back on March 4th.
That was the anniversary of the day that Congress proposed to append a Bill of Rights to our Constitution. With a lovely preamble that went a little somethin’ like this:
THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.
The Bill of Rights contains gems like “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,” (Amendment 1) and, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated” (Amendment 4).
I think this original Declaration of Internet Freedom is the bee’s knees. Yes, it’s taking some work to apply its strictures to the modern communications environment, but that’s a much more contained problem than starting over.
Starting over. That’s what a collection of really lovely groups–some highly pro‐regulation, others handmaidens of government growth–are doing. They’ve come up with a “Declaration of Internet Freedom” whose principal virtue is a pretty cool graphic. The actual “principles” in it are so weasel‐y that I wouldn’t trust ‘em as far as I could throw ‘em.
When you’re done pondering how one could “throw” a principle, consider an alternative to the “mainstream” declaration put out by our friends at TechFreedom. Their Declaration of Internet Freedom has a bunch of principles like “Humility” and “Rule of Law.”
Their thing on “Free Expression” cites the First Amendment. Remember that one? That’s the “Congress shall make no law” one. So that’s pretty good.
But I’m really hoping that nobody living today gets to define the basic principles by which the Internet is ruled. We’ve got that. It’s a neato collection of negative rights, preventing the government from interfering with society’s development, whether that development occurs online or off.
So happy Declaration of Internet Freedom day! I’ll be celebrating the real one.
In case you’ve gotten confused in all the jostling around, the real one is the Bill of Rights.