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Italy’s Declaration of Internet Rights

An ad hoc study commission of the Italian Chamber of Deputies has published a draft “Declaration of Internet Rights” that should be cause for cheers and cheer. It’s currently open for public comment at the Civici Platform — which by itself is pretty cool.

TechPresident explains that this came about

thanks to the initiative of the presidency of the Chamber of Deputies, a dedicated Committee of experts and members of the Parliament from the Committee on Internet Rights and Duties. The bill aims to inform the debate about online civil liberties and fundamental freedoms during the Italian semester of the European Union presidency…

I like the document a lot. A lot a lot. The principles are based on a genuine understanding of the value that the Net brings and what enables the Net to bring that value. This is crucial because so often those who seek to govern the Net do so because they see it primarily as a threat to order or a challenge to their power.

The Declaration focuses on the rights of individuals, taking the implicit stance (or so I read it) that the threat to those rights comes not only from Internet malefactors and giant Internet conglomerates run amok, but also from those who seek to govern the Net. It includes as rights not only access to the Net, but access to education about how to use the Net, a point too often forgotten. (Not by Eszter Hargittai, though, who has done the seminal work in showing that Internet skills are not as easily acquired as we often assume.)

Since my larynx seizes whenever its faced with the prospect of talking about governing the Internet, I personally wish the document would be even more direct about the dangers of trying to “fix” the Internet. For example, it could recommend principles such as these to our Internet Overlords:

  • Every effort will be made to enable the governance of the Net bottom up and by the edges.

  • Controls and regulations should only be introduced when less coercive and restrictive attempts have demonstrably and repeatedly failed.

  • Controls and regulations should be created as far up the stack as possible when they are necessary. (Or is that a bad idea??).

  • The advice of engineers who are not beholden to particular constituencies or entities shall be consulted and heavily regarded. (Not sure how to state this.)

But that’s probably just me. Far more important, this draft Declaration of Internet Rights is an important reminder to the Internet’s wannabe regulators that the Net is a powerful force for human good that should be helped to flourish, not merely a negative force that needs to be restrained.

For more information, I strongly recommend the TechPresident article by Fabio Chiusi.

3 Responses to “Italy’s Declaration of Internet Rights”

  1. […] David Weinberger has a set of comments about the Italian draft “Declaration of Internet Rights”. He says he likes the draft a lot. «A lot a lot». He quotes the draft, the opening for public comment and Fabio Chiusi’s report. […]

  2. […] un articolo (rivisto per pagina99) uscito sul blog dell’autore. David Weinberger insegna ad Harvard ed è uno dei più autorevoli osservatori di politica e […]

  3. […] Italy’s Declaration of Internet Rights ::: Joho […]


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