Lindsay Newland Bowker


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Crowdsourcing Freedom: What Can We As A Global User Community Do To Further The UN’s Vision of An Internet Free of Government Intervention?

On June 3, 2011 the Human Rights Council of the United Nations declared Internet Access a fundamental human right. It seeks universal access with freedom from government interference in all aspects of internet operation. It generally follows the guidance of a global coalition of Human Rights, Technology, Investors, The Global Network Initiative envisioning its primary use and control by users and providers to further global conversation.
This visionary document distinguishes the internet from radio, television, and the press by virtue of its user driven content and locates the internet in the legal tradition of the right of assembly, the right to privacy, and free speech. Under the UN resolution government interference with the internet is sanctioned only to prevent the exploitation of children and to circumscribe inciting to violence. Otherwise the resolution calls for absolutely no interference by any government. Consistent with the General Assembly’s role as a deliberative body(rather than an enforcement body) it invites the world community to recognize and protect the unique possibilities of the internet as a voice of “we the people of earth”
How do we at TED crowdsource the realization of this user provider controlled vision of the internet?

Please read this March 2011 TED Conversation discussing whether access to the internet is a universal human right..interestingly many did not agree

At Pur TED Common Values poll I added the internet as a fundamanetal human right..visit and vote yea or nay at

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    Aug 1 2011: Is having electricity a human right?

    If yes, than yes.

    What electricity is for physical health/comfort
    Is internet for mental health/comfort

    In the past the same discussion was on electricity not? Companies were offering in terms of scarcity, than everybody wanted it, electricity/energy related companies could see the potential of monetizing dependence.

    This is where human rights come in. A human right is not making sure you have the right, but making sure nobody is abusing your physical/mental needs.

    As normal as electricity for all is, as normal internet talk should be.

    ... As for crowdsourcing, we need to show that the internet is more than talking, spreading and consuming information. Not only communication, but also serious collaboration.

    That quality of life is depending on it, like electricity was/is.
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      Aug 19 2011: Paul, Thank you for your comment..I am logging in for the first time since late July as my studio down on the harbor has no phone and no internet..(a violation of my human rights????)

      The philosophical and legal foundations on which the UN declaration was based are freedom of speech and privavcy. They distinguish the internet from say electricity or radio or tv because the content is user created.

      It is a very significant declaration I think and yet it received no coverage at all in major global newspapers like the NY Times.

      It remains to be seen, of course, how the UN will use/invoke the declaration.
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    Jul 21 2011: Here is a good strat on an "Iinternet Bill of Rights" along with links to issues and testimony which violate these principles.
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    Jul 21 2011: Finland took the lead in 2009 mandating the right of every citizen to broadband access.

    This would seem to be an essential mandate for every nation if interet access actually is to be regarded and protected as a fundamental human right. It is is certainly essential to any uses of the internet for direct democracy or for participating in “global e-acadamies”

    .“Finland has become the first country in the world to declare broadband Internet access a legal right.Starting in July, telecommunication companies in the northern European nation will be required to provide all 5.2 million citizens with Internet connection that runs at speeds of at least 1 megabit per second.”
    October 15, 2009

    U.S. President Barack Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 called for an investment of $7.2 billion in broadband infrastructure and included an openness stipulation.

    What other nations have taken this step? Can we , in the context of this converstaion, draft model legislation and push within our own countries for its adoption?
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    Jul 21 2011: What a great topic for discussion and a font of information! Thank you.

    The Internet is to me, the single most hopefilled resource that we have as a human family for creating a better future. The fact that information is no longer held prisoner in ivory towers or held captive by people who can put a lid on truth by intimidation and secrecy means that we have the opportunity to learn, to know, to act.
    This freedom must be protected at all costs and average people need to speak up to defend it.
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      Jul 21 2011: Debra

      ,Hello & thanks for your post

      .I think the U.N. and the many whose thinking guided Special Rapporteur LaRue's report see it as you do

      .When I took this up ( in the context of Corvida's discussion on the Internet Magna Carta) I was intrigued by how a resource provided through private entities could be declared a fundamental human right..and interested in the legal foundation that distinguishes it from radio, tv, press, and even telephones/cell phones.

      I accept the legal premise which anchors internet access in free speech, rights to assembly and privacy rights.We all heard about the black outs in the early days of the Tahir Square demonstrations and the total black out that existed in Syria on the day the General Assembly enacted this declaration.

      What I didn't realize until I started to do more research in preparation for this TED Conversation , is how much government interference there is in the U.S., the U.K. France & China and how extensive the censorhsip and control is among Arab Nations.I am beginning to get the the idea that providers, technology companies, human rights activitists and humanists who see as you do the potential power of the internet to bring us together as a global community pushed for this to happen at the UN as a kind of warning..that even us in the "free world" are not free from government oversight and interference with our "free e-assembly" on the internet.

      The UN Declaration, as far as I recall, got no play at all anywhwere. I stumbled on it doing google searches for Corvida's Conversation. So I wanted to highlight it here in the hopes that some of the issues and circumstances that informed the UN decision can be brought to light and we might explore solutions here together at TED

      .It seems obvious that a government free internet will require a great deal more user involvement than we have been accustomed to. and also, by implication, that the UN declaration envisons an unprecented partnership between users and providers.
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        Jul 21 2011: Thank you so much for your work in educating me and others here at TED. I was aware of the censorship especially surrounding the Blackberry and the problems that company has faced in protecting user information in Saudi and in India. China and the Google issues also hit my radar screeen. There are Americans who have banned together to ensure that companies who are trying to limit access are thwarted and that too is a real contribution to the cause.
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          Jul 21 2011: Debra

          Canada is often a great source of model legislation. Anything you kow of on:

          (1) decalaring internet access as a fundamental human right?
          (2) mandating 100% broadband access (by a reasonable date)
          (3) guranteeing non-interefrence ( except with suppoena showing good cause or for prima facie child exploitation or inciting violence/hate speech)
          (4) guranteeing/mandating network neutrality?
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        Jul 21 2011: The following is an excerpt from Wikipedia:

        Internet content is not specifically regulated in Canada, however local laws do apply to websites hosted in Canada as well as to residents who host sites on servers in other jurisdictions. A well-known example is the case of Ernst Zündel, who was investigated by the Canadian Human Rights Commission for promoting ethnic hatred via his website.

        In November 2006, Canadian Internet service providers Bell, Bell Aliant, MTS Allstream, Rogers, Shaw, SaskTel, Telus, and Vidéotron announced "Project Cleanfeed Canada"; the voluntary blocking of access to hundreds of alleged child pornography sites. The list of blocked sites is compiled from reports by Internet users and investigated by the independent organization "". Although this was a voluntary step with no involvement from the authorities, the Canadian government did express its approval.
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    Jul 21 2011: Here are the main conclusions of Special Rapporteur Frank Larue

    :La Rue concludes his report by

    :• Calling upon States to ensure that individuals can express themselves anonymously online

    .• Calling upon States to refrain from adopting real-name registration systems

    .• Underscoring that national security or counterterrorism cannot be used to justify restricting the right to expression unless an imminent legitimate threat is demonstrated

    .• Underscoring the obligation of States to adopt effective privacy and data protection laws in accordance with article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Human Rights Committee’s general comment No. 16

    .• Calling all States to decriminalize defamation.

    Full Report at:
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      Jul 21 2011: Commerce... banned commerce on internet. It's the second highest motivation for any government to claim some if not all the internet.

      Sometimes it IS as simple as the money.
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        Jul 21 2011: Hi Judge

        You mean don't allow advertisers or the sale of merchandise? Ins't that what makes the "freedom tto associate", freedom to speak, part possible?

        Both the UK and France are in violation of the UN Declaration through their laws intended to protect copyrights and the billions of dollars lost to individuals and to the general economy through copy right abuses. Strikes me that user-provifder agreements and user self policing are esssential to keeping government out , at least on the copy right issue.

        Perhaps the answer lies in the direction of technology..a policjing system that works via user subscribed software that does the policimg in the same way that Panda, Norton, andother anti-virus software police for invaders.?
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          Jul 21 2011: Yes.
          You can advertise and sale offline and associate and speak online.
          Commerce invite crimes, it is as good excuse as terrorism to intervene.
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        Jul 21 2011: Maybe it is possible to have ".pub" as a separate totally free blog & public information zone on the internet that is totally free of advertising? That was the idea of the "public chanels" when cable tv was first introduced in the US. There may be enough revenue in other aspects of acccess to allow that. And maybe you are right maybe that is the fastest and easiest way to enable what the UN Declaration envisions.

        Worth hashing through.
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    Jul 21 2011: (6) What are the technology solutions that we as users can help make possible that could allow internet access ala “radio free Europe”..from outside national boundaries?
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    Jul 21 2011: (5) What can we as a user community do to keep the light on government persecution of bloggers who are guilty of nothing but free speech?
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    Jul 21 2011: China has forced providers to censor many aspects of content especially as related to the possibility of protest. How can we as users bring the specifics of this censorship to light and support providers in refusing to comply with government censorship? (Something like the Sullivan principles boycotting Chinese products???)
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    Jul 21 2011: (3) The U.S. has violated user privacy in its overly aggressive anti terrorist and whistleblower crackdown. What can we as users-providers do to keep these actions in the light and press for the end?
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    Jul 21 2011: (2) The UK & France have both been pursuing legislation to block access to the internet for users violating copyright laws ..what kind of uniform user-provider agreement can we draft that will eliminate this and other unlawful activity.
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    Jul 21 2011: (1)Only 5 individual countries have acknowledged access to the internet as a fundamental human right.(France,Estonia, Spain, Greece & Iceland) Can we in this conversation draft and promote a uniform resolution and use the power of the internet to push for its adoption in our countries.