Internet Rights - There is This Thing Called the Press

Thanks to +Stephen Shankland for sharing. I was disappointed and, to be honest, somewhat shocked by +vint cerf's article on rights to Internet access. His basic premise is that technology is an enabler of rights, not a right unto itself. That sounds simple enough, but in the U.S. we do have this thing called the Constitution, which includes its First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Now, "the press" is not about a profession strictly speaking; it's about the right of citizens to use a publishing technology to communicate freely and openly to other citizens. This would have been very clear to anyone in the time of the Constitution's writing, for it was a none-too-wealthy everyday person, not a member of any professional press, who scraped up his own money to publish a small pamphlet called Common Sense, This pamphlet, written by Thomas Paine, was read by virtually every inhabitant in the American colonies in 1776, and played a decisive role in forming public opinion which backed a Declaration of Independence of thirteen of Britain's American colonies to form The United States of America.

Without the right to have access to a printing press and the right to distribute his pamphlet as an individual with an opinion, The United States itself might not exist today. As I expressed in my book +Content Nation, Thomas Paine's Common Sense was an early precursor to today's social media, providing highly scalable influence. This highly scalable influence is necessary for an effective democracy. Without it, we are left to those who have the money making the rules.

I would contend that although much respected, Vint Cerf is altogether wrong in his opinion. Publishing technology enables scalable human expression, something that a mere telephone circuit cannot do. This example that he gives is disingenuous because of that key difference; it's as if to say that Internet Protocol (IP) never came to be as a key differentiator for human communications. IP enables one node on a telecommunications network to communicate with an infinite number of other nodes. That's not what telephones are about in any real sense.

The Internet is today's press, with a lower-case "P" as seen in the U.S. Constitution. It is the affordable and highly scalable publishing technology that enables citizens to express themselves to one another in an open society. Take that away, and you take away also the right of peaceable assembly, for we will not be able to coordinate our peaceable assemblies nor inform people of them nor inform the world of them. The Internet also provides a primary vehicle for citizens to petition our governments for a redress of grievances, also covered in the First Amendment. If you doubt this, just go to the White House's "We the People" public petition Web site ( or the Web site of any member of our Congress or our state and local governments.

Put simply, the Internet is the engine of democracy. I find it shameful that in this day and age any well informed person, much less someone with Vint Cerf's historic role in forming the Internet, would see it otherwise. Please share this post and comment on it to make your views and concerns known. After all, we are Content Nation, a nation of publishers.
Google's Vint Cerf: "Technology is an enabler of rights, not a right itself. There is a high bar for something to be considered a human right." via +Dion Almaer
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