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A Declaration of the Interdependence of Cyberspace

On the anniversary of John Perry Barlow's issuing 'A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace,' a response and alternate call to action

By Daniel Castro
February 8, 2013 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld - On the anniversary of John Perry Barlow's issuing 'A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace,' a response and alternate call to action. Seventeen years ago today, on February 8, 1996, John Perry Barlow sent out his manifesto "A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace," a statement of the core belief of many cyber-libertarians that governments should have no authority on the Internet. That belief may seem quaint to many of us today, when the separation between the real and the virtual is growing ever fuzzier. And yet the Declaration remains a fairly accurate representation of the views of many of the anti-government voices on the Internet. These beliefs motivate the actions of groups like Anonymous and the writing on blogs like Tech Liberation Front and TechDirt. Moreover, many of the protests about things like the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) and Aaron Swartz are fundamentally driven by a deeply held belief that government should not be involved in the Internet. The ideas expressed in the Declaration are not only wrong today but were fundamentally wrong in 1996, says Daniel Castro, a senior analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF). For that reason, and because the Internet is more central to society than ever as a communication, information and economic development tool, Castro and ITIF are publishing, in the style of Barlow's original Declaration, "A Declaration of the Interdependence of Cyberspace," which replaces the call for sovereign nations to give up all claims of authority on the Internet with an even more radical call for these same political powers to work together to build the utopian vision of the Internet promised by its creators.

A Declaration of the Interdependence of Cyberspace

Libertarians of the Virtual World, you gray-bearded detractors of government and sovereignty, we too come from Cyberspace. On behalf of the future, we ask you of the past to leave us alone. Your declaration of independence rings false, and your stale principles are a threat to progress.

The Internet has no elected government, nor is it likely to have one, but this does not mean it is not governed. The Internet is ruled, as are all technologies, not only by the norms and beliefs of its users, but also by the laws and values of the societies in which they live.

You allege that government has had no role in the Internet, and for this reason it has no claim to the Internet today, but this accusation is founded on nothing more than ignorance and superstition. Government labs and government-funded research programs gave birth to the Internet's essential technologies, and government policies continue to guide the development of important Internet innovations today.



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