WASHINGTON—Ahead of Monday’s 20-year anniversary of John Perry Barlow’s “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace,” the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) released a statement from Daniel Castro, ITIF vice president:
Monday will mark 20 years since John Perry Barlow issued “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace,” a manifesto that still serves as the lodestar for the many digital anarchists who believe governments have no moral standing or just authority to interfere with anything anyone may do on the Internet.
We at ITIF disagree. Three years ago, we released our own document, “A Declaration of the Interdependence of Cyberspace,” which argues for a symbiotic relationship between sovereign nations and their citizens to oversee cyberspace in a way that protects rights for all individuals, not just the loudest voices.
What we said three years ago still stands:
“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.
“We do not want an Internet controlled by the nations of the world, but neither do we want an Internet divorced from government. We seek a balance that recognizes both the rights of the individual and the benefits to the community of well-ordered systems.
“We reject your declaration of independence and take up a new call for interdependence among sovereign nations and peoples. We will work together in common cause so that no one can arrest our progress.”
Barlow’s original declaration that the Internet and activity on it cannot and should not be governed has proved false time and again. Even he has backed away from his statements, as the potential negative consequences of turning the Internet over to Anonymous, 4chan, ISIL, and other online miscreants have become clear. It is time to recognize that all stakeholders on the Internet, including governments, should work together to protect the rights, dignity, and property of all individuals in our society.