Monday, January 28, 2013

Protecting Online Freedom as the Internet Turns 30

Originally published by the Seattle Times

THE Internet turned 30 earlier this month. On Jan. 1, 1983, engineers launched the basic protocol for sharing bits between computers, setting in motion the networked world we live in today.

It’s during anniversaries like these that we have a chance to take stock of this remarkable network and the people who make it what it is.

As the Internet enters its middle years, we users can no longer take it for granted. It’s more than a cloud. It’s people, technology and physical infrastructure. As with any infrastructure, the Internet needs protection and maintenance to survive; otherwise the wires and signals that send digital communications will cease to function. The online community also needs protections — to prevent our ideas from being blocked, our identities from being hijacked and our wallets from being picked.

Behind the quiet leadership of people like Aaron Swartz, millions of Internet users rose up en masse last January to protect these rights and stop two Internet-crippling copyright bills. Swartz committed suicide on Jan. 11 after being hounded for two years by U.S. prosecutors who sought a harsh prison term. Swartz allegedly downloaded millions of academic articles from a protected database.

Swartz, who was only 26 at the time of his death, was at the forefront of the struggle for open networks where knowledge is freely available to anyone who seeks it. It’s part of a global Internet freedom movement built around a set of ideals, many of which are within our grasp in the U.S.

... read the full op-ed at the Seattle Times

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