1994-04-04 - rights in cyberspace

Header Data

From: tmp@netcom.com
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Message Hash: 162bd95e40ac9b857c759f0bd3ca08265c852b652c02ac848ef541671fac4682
Message ID: <199404042007.NAA22262@mail.netcom.com>
Reply To: N/A
UTC Datetime: 1994-04-04 20:07:01 UTC
Raw Date: Mon, 4 Apr 94 13:07:01 PDT

Raw message

From: tmp@netcom.com
Date: Mon, 4 Apr 94 13:07:01 PDT
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Subject: rights in cyberspace
Message-ID: <199404042007.NAA22262@mail.netcom.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

t.c. may argues against codifying a sort of `bill of rights' or `magna carta'
for cyberspace, saying that these documents tend to become meaningless
from empty promises. but, on the other hand, what is the point of the
nation's bill of rights? we could argue that the concept of `free speech'
is meaningless in the realm of private industry, yet we still have a bill
of rights that guarantees us certain rights. where, precisely, are we
guaranteed these rights to e.g. free speech, freedom of assembly, etc?
do the cypherpunks believe in the u.s. constitution as sacred or not?

i think something that `cypherpunk' ideology often misses is the concept
of a community. this mailing list is a community. most of cyberspace is
a community. when you yell at a site administrator to censor e.g. detweiler,
you are exercising a role in that community (as is he). and the bottom
line is that communities *demand* rules. otherwise, one only has anarchy.
do you really *like* anarchy? keep in mind that `detweilering' seems to 
thrive in it <g>

IMHO anyone who argues that cyberspace does not require a bill of rights
similar to the one we have in the `real world' is essentially mistaken.
t.c. may argues that these kinds of `accesses' such as cheap connections
etc. will arise naturually via private enterprise and competition. but!
this just doesn't hold out in what might be termed the `pathological' 
situations. consider that all the internet providers decide they can make
a lot of money from collusion. what is to prevent them from price fixing?

also, i have seen t.c. may essentially condone the practice of private
companies censoring their users from internet access. but, correct me
if i'm wrong, there is *only* access through the internet through
private companies! what if they all decided to censor a particular user?
suppose you want to create your own company-- they could just as easily
decide to deny service to your company!!

this is why we have a government, `punks'-- it is a sort of `codified
community'. we are guaranteed freedom of speech and assembly etc. in
any forums associated with the *government* the bill of rights ensures
you certain minimum expectations.

one solution to this on the internet would be to create a subnetwork
in which rights of users, as well as laws governing their freedoms,
are codified. people who subscribe to the network are committing to
upholding the charter of the overall organization in return for their
`minimal expectations'. some of these expectations might be:

1. right not to be censored for most forms of speech or net use.
2. if someone tries to censor them, that a `due process' ensue 
3. this might be something like a `trial by one's peers'
4. the accused would have the right to confront accusors

etc. note that these have been recognized as basic human rights for
centuries, and they are very sensibly applied to cyberspace. now,
the organization of other users also has a certain set of laws they
adhere to:

1. allowed to censor sites/users that `misbehave' by initiating 
the `due process'
2. expectation of identity-- in joining the system a site makes guarantees
that they will not forge mail by users or other sites, etc.
3. a police force representing the authority of the organization over
members would be required for enforcement.

we could call this the `cyberspatial citizenship' subset of the internet
or something like that. the whole point is to be *explicit* about what
sites and users can expect. you see, it is impossible to be connected
to cyberspace without being subject to the potential whims of some other
human being between you and your digital data!!

hopefully, gradually this `cybernation' would grow to the point that it
encompasses the entire internet -- sort of like usenet does today, and
everyone has a clear expectation of their roles.

notice that in our government as well as the system above, `corruption'
is recognized as possible. we have a system that transcends individual
companies, government agencies, policemen, etc.-- they are all `purged
from the system' (theoretically) if they engage in behavior that is
illegal in the community. to subscribe to a system like this is *not*
to subjugate yourself to a higher authority. it is the way you `mesh'
or `interface' with the mechanisms that embody the community you live in.

now, a lot of you are going to get upset because all of the above sounds
a lot like a `government'. but if you can get away from the mindset that
`government==evil' you can see that this system has benefits to everyone
involved, and moreover it would be possible to erect outside the scope
of the u.s. government. that is, in one sense you could call it a 
`private' organization.

`punks', until a system like the above is implemented, no one is free.
we have no rights. we have nothing but the feudal system, and one is
either a slavish serf or oppressive king, and this could change at
a moment's notice. 

suppose that someone bought a few dozen accounts around the world, and
made you their enemy (or vice versa) and simultaneously sent complaints
from every one to your site administrator saying that you had caused
irreparable harm to various cyberspatial forums? would your administrator
listen for very long before they decided to yank your account because,
after all, `we've had dozens of complaints'? what if you had never 
even posted to the forums? would your administrator know?
would he give a damn? if he did, why should he?

what if netcom yanked all the accounts of cypherpunks
*today*? are you saying they should be allowed to do that merely because
they are a private company? what if *all* internet providers decided
to do this? are you going to argue that this is impossible? what
*prevents* it? do you think a company is going to care how loud you 
screech on the phone if they have some other plan? 

the bottom line: if you think you have any rights today in cyberspace, 
or guaranteed access to the internet, you are *wrong*.

so, codifying a cyberspatial magna carta ranks as a very noble and
ideal pursuit. i urge the ambitious and fairminded among us to strive
to realize this vision. `you have nothing to lose but your barbed
wire fences'....