Civil libertarians have long exerted outsized influence over the Internet’s public square. John Perry Barlow, the erstwhile Grateful Dead lyricist and co-founder of the Electronic Freedom Foundation, spoke for many of them in the mid-1990s when he addressed the world’s governments in an almost farcical “Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace,” arguing, “We must declare our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty.”
Subsequent pronouncements have been more prosaic, but no less focused on individual rights: The Obama administration unveiled a “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights” with “reasonable limits on the personal data that companies collect.” Congressional leaders later proposed an “Internet Bill of Rights” with rights to universal web access, net neutrality, and transparency in the scope of data use. And now the Biden administration is developing a “bill of rights for an AI-powered world,” to “clarify the rights and freedoms we expect data-driven technologies to respect.”
Glaringly absent in these calls for individual rights and freedoms have been any real consideration of communal responsibilities. Bridging that gap in an op-ed for Inside Sources, Rob Atkinson and Daniel Castro hereby propose a Bill of Responsibilities for the Internet.