Kash has guest-blogger Elie Mystal talking about the relative toothlessness of the recently-released Declaration of Internet Freedom; it’s worth a read. She’s speaking about this document, hosted at internetdeclaration.org and signed by a bunch of lefty net organizations like Free Press and CDT. Almost infinitely unhelpfully, a bunch of libertarian/right-leaning net organizations released a response document that was also called the Declaration of Internet Freedom — you can find it at declarationofinternetfreedom.org.
As my friend Tim Lee has pointed out, both of these documents are so broad and vague as to be more or less perfectly compatible with one another. But of course their supporters will never acknowledge this, because behind the pabulum is a desire to attract the anti-SOPA campaign’s politically naive but newly-engaged internet advocates behind one or another camp’s tribal ideological banner. The declarations are as broadly agreeable as an Expression Of Approval Of Apple Pie so as to appeal to as many potential supporters as possible. But you can reasonably expect the camp behind Declaration A to eventually email their new list members about net neutrality, and the folks behind Declaration B to do the same about government efforts to regulate telecoms.
These efforts should be understood as part of a larger race to grab leadership of what looks like a temptingly huge and ideologically-uncommitted political bloc. I think it’s fair to view Rand and Ron Paul’s new initiative through this lens, and Darrell Issa and Ron Wyden’s Digital Bill of Rights, and the Internet Defense League.
I’m sure that no one undertaking these efforts is behaving wholly cynically. But it seems pretty obvious that a number of people think that they can get themselves crowned King of Reddit, then use the vast armies that come with that title to wrangle a bunch of small dollar campaign contributions or nonprofit membership dues or advocacy actions or invitations to speak at conferences. There’s nothing particularly wrong with any of this — though I kind of suspect that the people placing these bets are likely to find that they’ve badly misunderstood how the internet and political organizing actually work — but it is at least a little slimy.
And it probably doesn’t merit much policy attention. These documents are membership drives, not legislative programs. Though it is interesting to see the net bloc — which (to the extent one can speak about it monolithically at all) seems to style itself as post-partisan — begin to be inevitably absorbed into the world’s existing ideological camps.