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Nancy Smith

'Internet Freedom' Movement Gears up a Notch With Petition Drive

July 4, 2012 - 6:00pm

The nonpartisan movement to keep the Internet free and unfettered gained striking momentum this week, as an Internet-rights petition called the Declaration of Internet Freedom gathered more than 20,000 signatures on Monday, its first day.

Those backing the drive include Mozilla, the American Civil Liberties Union, Reporters Without Borders and university professors from Harvards Berkman Center for Internet and Society and Stanford Law Schools Center for Internet and Society.

The group's campaign director, Josh Levy, said the Declaration of Internet Freedom concentrates on protecting free expression, promoting Internet access, supporting new technology, and preserving data privacy. The petition itself was organized by a media-policy group called Free Press, Levy said, and was inspired by the fight against the Stop Online Piracy Act.

It's already being discussed on several blogs, including Reddit, TechDirt, and Github.

Explained Levy in the July 2 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education, We realized we had a real opportunity to push forward and take this collective energy toward stopping something and apply it toward building something, to protect the thing that we know and love.

"It started out as a conversation about policies -- net neutrality and broadband access -- and then we realized that those are means to certain ends, but what are the ends? So we came up with this, the most essential part of what Internet freedom means.

The declaration stops short of suggesting specific legislation. Rather than wade into the policy muck, where were all going to be divided at some point," said Levy, "why not see what we can come together around? We had earlier versions of this. They were much more specific but not as powerful, and not the kind of thing that millions of people can rally around.

What Levy did not say is how the petition will have any clout -- who will determine the validity of the petition signers and where it will be sent to be the most effective.

Reach Nancy Smith at or at (850) 727-0859.

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