There are powerful state and corporate interests ranged against an open internet. We need a global movement to check them
On 24 April, a group of internet entrepreneurs sought to get the future into a single conference room in Chelsea, and have it talk. “Hacking Society” was hosted by Union Square Ventures – the venture capital firm that was an early investor in Zynga, Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare, Etsy, and Kickstarter. The mission:
“[To] discuss how the economics of networks might help solve challenging social and economic problems; examine how incumbents use their influence over the current policy process to stave off competition from networks; define a proactive, network-friendly ‘freedom to innovate’ policy agenda; and examine how ‘net native’ policy advocacy works and how it can be harnessed to promote a positive agenda as well as overthrow bad policy and bad regimes.”
A tall order but desperately needed: in an era when revolutions start on Facebook but are ended by internet surveillance; when activists in China connect by tweets but are stalked and arrested by tweets; and when we are seeing copycat legislation in democracies around the world, from Australia to Britain, to Canada and the US, to grab the internet in the hands of the state … many people around the world would want this group to hammer out a successful self-defense agenda.
Present were all sectors needed for lift-off: internet freedom champions John Perry Barlow and Cindy Cohn of the Electronic Frontier Foundation; network theory gurus Clay Shirky of NYU and Yochai Benkler of Harvard ; commercial success stories such as Craig Newmark of Craigslist and originators of Mozilla, Reddit and Kickstarter; campaign finance reform champion Larry Lessig; even the Hill was represented by Representative Jim Cooper of Tennessee, and a trade aide for Representative Ron Wyden of Oregon.