Lives, Fortunes and Sacred Honor

Around the 4th of July, some smart, public minded folks put forth a “Declaration of Internet Freedom“. And while it’s good in a motherhood and apple pie sense of good, wholesome fun for the whole family, it lacks the punch and panache of the Declaration of Independence to which men pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor. As Randy Barnett points out in “The Declaration of Independence Annotated“, signing that document was a substantial and real risk to those who did it.

So where the Declaration of Independence got awfully specific about what they were objecting to (in that long list of grievances that no one reads as closely as they should), here we get “Don’t censor the internet.” But are the signers objecting to censorship of women without veils in Saudi Arabia? Nazis in Germany? How about Lese-majeste in Thailand?

We get things like “Protect the freedom to innovate and create without permission.” Does that mean that Apple should open their app store to all the malware that makes it into the Google store? Does that mean that someone like Amazon needs to publish Kindle APIs? That any API in a system is fair game, even if it’s officially not supported? If I use an unsupported API, does my freedom to innovate trump the creator’s freedom to innovate, and lock them into supporting that API in the future?

Whatever it might mean, it might mean different things to different people, but the unwillingness of the authors to really press into specifics might even make it meaningless.

Which is a shame.