Declaration of Digital Independence

Version 1.3 (June 29, 2019; version history)

See also: Social Media Strike!FAQ about the project to decentralize social mediaResources

This document is included as Chapter 11 of my 2020 book, Essays on Free Knowledge. Please support the struggle for freedom by buying a copy!

Humanity has been contemptuously used by vast digital empires. Thus it is now necessary to replace these empires with decentralized networks of independent individuals, as in the first decades of the Internet. As our participation has been voluntary, no one doubts our right to take this step. But if we are to persuade as many people as possible to join together and make reformed networks possible, we should declare our reasons for wanting to replace the old.

We declare that we have unalienable digital rights, rights that define how information that we individually own may or may not be treated by others, and that among these rights are free speech, privacy, and security. Since the proprietary, centralized architecture of the Internet at present has induced most of us to abandon these rights, however reluctantly or cynically, we ought to demand a new system that respects them properly. The difficulty and divisiveness of wholesale reform means that this task is not to be undertaken lightly. For years we have approved of and even celebrated enterprise as it has profited from our communication and labor without compensation to us. But it has become abundantly clear more recently that a callous, secretive, controlling, and exploitative animus guides the centralized networks of the Internet and the corporations behind them.

The long train of abuses we have suffered makes it our right, even our duty, to replace the old networks. To show what train of abuses we have suffered at the hands of these giant corporations, let these facts be submitted to a candid world.

They have practiced in-house moderation in keeping with their executives’ notions of what will maximize profit, rather than allowing moderation to be performed more democratically and by random members of the community.

They have banned, shadow-banned, throttled, and demonetized both users and content based on political considerations, exercising their enormous corporate power to influence elections globally.

They have adopted algorithms for user feeds that highlight the most controversial content, making civic discussion more emotional and irrational and making it possible for foreign powers to exercise an unmerited influence on elections globally.

They have required agreement to terms of service that are impossible for ordinary users to understand, and which are objectionably vague in ways that permit them to legally defend their exploitative practices.

They have marketed private data to advertisers in ways that no one would specifically assent to.

They have failed to provide clear ways to opt out of such marketing schemes.

They have subjected users to such terms and surveillance even when users pay them for products and services.

They have data-mined user content and behavior in sophisticated and disturbing ways, learning sometimes more about their users than their users know about themselves; they have profited from this hidden but personal information.

They have avoided using strong, end-to-end encryption when users have a right to expect total privacy, in order to retain access to user data.

They have amassed stunning quantities of user data while failing to follow sound information security practices, such as encryption; they have inadvertently or deliberately opened that data to both illegal attacks and government surveillance.

They have unfairly blocked accounts, posts, and means of funding on political or religious grounds, preferring the loyalty of some users over others.

They have sometimes been too ready to cooperate with despotic governments that both control information and surveil their people.

They have failed to provide adequate and desirable options that users may use to guide their own experience of their services, preferring to manipulate users for profit.

They have failed to provide users adequate tools for searching their own content, forcing users rather to employ interfaces insultingly inadequate for the purpose.

They have exploited users and volunteers who freely contribute data to their sites, by making such data available to others only via paid application program interfaces and privacy-violating terms of service, failing to make such freely-contributed data free and open source, and disallowing users to anonymize their data and opt out easily.

They have failed to provide adequate tools, and sometimes any tools, to export user data in a common data standard.

They have created artificial silos for their own profit; they have failed to provide means to incorporate similar content, served from elsewhere, as part of their interface, forcing users to stay within their networks and cutting them off from family, friends, and associates who use other networks.

They have profited from the content and activity of users, often without sharing any of these profits with the users.

They have treated users arrogantly as a fungible resource to be exploited and controlled rather than being treated respectfully, as free, independent, and diverse partners.

We have begged and pleaded, complained, and resorted to the law. The executives of the corporations must be familiar with these common complaints; but they acknowledge them publicly only rarely and grudgingly. The ill treatment continues, showing that most of such executives are not fit stewards of the public trust.

The most reliable guarantee of our privacy, security, and free speech is not in the form of any enterprise, organization, or government, but instead in the free agreement among free individuals to use common standards and protocols. The vast power wielded by social networks of the early 21st century, putting our digital rights in serious jeopardy, demonstrates that we must engineer new—but old-fashioned—decentralized networks that make such clearly dangerous concentrations of power impossible.

Therefore, we declare our support of the following principles.

Principles of Decentralized Social Networks

  1. We free individuals should be able to publish our data freely, without having to answer to any corporation.
  2. We declare that we legally own our own data; we possess both legal and moral rights to control our own data.
  3. Posts that appear on social networks should be able to be served, like email and blogs, from many independent services that we individually control, rather than from databases that corporations exclusively control or from any central repository.
  4. Just as no one has the right to eavesdrop on private conversations in homes without extraordinarily good reasons, so also the privacy rights of users must be preserved against criminal, corporate, and governmental monitoring; therefore, for private content, the protocols must support strong, end-to-end encryption and other good privacy practices.
  5. As is the case with the Internet domain name system, lists of available user feeds should be restricted by technical standards and protocols only, never according to user identity or content.
  6. Social media applications should make available data input by the user, at the user’s sole discretion, to be distributed by all other publishers according to common, global standards and protocols, just as are email and blogs, with no publisher being privileged by the network above another. Applications with idiosyncratic standards violate their users’ digital rights.
  7. Accordingly, social media applications should aggregate posts from multiple, independent data sources as determined by the user, and in an order determined by the user’s preferences.
  8. No corporation, or small group of corporations, should control the standards and protocols of decentralized networks, nor should there be a single brand, owner, proprietary software, or Internet location associated with them, as that would constitute centralization.
  9. Users should expect to be able to participate in the new networks, and to enjoy the rights above enumerated, without special technical skills. They should have very easy-to-use control over privacy, both fine- and coarse-grained, with the most private messages encrypted automatically, and using tools for controlling feeds and search results that are easy for non-technical people to use.

We hold that to embrace these principles is to return to the sounder and better practices of the earlier Internet and which were, after all, the foundation for the brilliant rise of the Internet. Anyone who opposes these principles opposes the Internet itself. Thus we pledge to code, design, and participate in newer and better networks that follow these principles, and to eschew the older, controlling, and soon to be outmoded networks.

We, therefore, the undersigned people of the Internet, do solemnly publish and declare that we will do all we can to create decentralized social networks; that as many of us as possible should distribute, discuss, and sign their names to this document; that we endorse the preceding statement of principles of decentralization; that we will judge social media companies by these principles; that we will demonstrate our solidarity to the cause by abandoning abusive networks if necessary; and that we, both users and developers, will advance the cause of a more decentralized Internet.

Please sign if you agree!

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I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing…

Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to James Madison, Paris, January 30, 1787. Jefferson was the author of the original Declaration of Independence, signed on July 4, 1776.
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Please do dive in (politely). I want your reactions!

237 responses to “Declaration of Digital Independence”

  1. The petition-signing app doesn’t display your signature. If you want to do that, please add a comment here! Maybe something like this:

    Larry Sanger, CIO Everipedia, co-founder Wikipedia, Ph.D. Philosophy (Ohio State, 2000).

    But you can say whatever you like, of course.

    1. I support this declaration and do hereby give my full agreement with the Digital Declaration of Independence.

      -Anne Ahola Ward, CEO Veritoken Global, O’Reilly Author, IBM Futurist, also known as the Mother of Startups in Silicon Valley

      1. Giacomo

        Let’s boogie!

        1. Steve Shoaf

          I am in support of a social media terms of service complete overhaul with users in control of their own digital footprint. Our data is our property and should not be for sale.
          I wholeheartedly support this petition.

        2. Mónica

          Apoyo totalmente ésta causa.

        3. Linnea Renhammar-Metus

          Great initiative! Thank you! //Linnea Renhammar-Metus

      2. Julie Miller

        This is the very definition of “Declaration of Independence”. Thank you, Larry Sanger, thank you!

        1. Rebecca Baldwin

          Thank you for giving us s voice!

      3. Baily Hershberger

        I think this is brilliant, but what should a layperson do today to work towards this goal? And by layperson, I mean someone who knows nothing about tech and privacy. Where can I safely store my digital photo and video library? Where can I still view and sign up for events happening in my city? Where do I go to message friends in other countries?

        1. Anne no doubt has her own ideas, but if I may: the most important thing perhaps is a password manager. There are many easy-to-use ones. If you can’t get it up and running and usable by you quickly, then grab your nearest geek and have him or her explain it and answer your questions. Probably they’ll be happy to do so because they’ll know it’s important.

          If you really want to get serious (I think it’s a good idea), you could have that geek install a NAS for you—basically, your very own personal Internet server. I’m looking at my phone, and my apps or at least my data for calendar, pictures (like many, e.g., Flickr), file access and sync (like Dropbox), Chat (like Slack), Audio (like Spotify…but for all my own music), and notes and to do list are all run off my own NAS.

          A NAS is kind of hardcore. But a password manager is low-hanging fruit and should be taught in all elementary schools in the world. I’m not kidding. Search on this blog for info on both.

        2. I have a NAS for backups and such, but I like this idea to use one as an internet server. Will need to start saving up! Thanks for the idea, Larry!

        3. Torbjörn Jansson

          Torbjörn Jansson, Gothenburg, Sweden
          Keep up the Good Work!

    2. Leonard Rose, Hacker, New Mexico

    3. If power corrupts, then none should have it.

      I think this society of ours must learn the difference between chain gangs and bucket brigades if it sincerely wishes to last much longer.

      1. Steph

        Saw you on Tucker Carlson tonight. It takes guts to start a revolution like this. You have my support. After being in Facebook jail 3 times, I figured out that it was because I shared a couple of mildly political posts.

    4. R. F. van der Kleij

      There should be a call for payments of data usage belonging each individual they paid to their internet service provider they privately purchase for the losses of real-estate they are forced to lose in Social Media site which should be 100% controllable by the data purchaser. Not free for the Social Media site as is now the case. Advertisement is what runs corporate Social Media and a payment of each computer memory unit of Data served up cost the private client Who purchases WiFi, and especially Mobile Data at rate that’s stolen from them though cooperates serving up sponsored advertisements of no fit purpose other than following such algorithms they employ to send us content that up until now is not contributing in any way the cost of our WiFi and Mobile data cost every individual purchase. or a class action lawsuit organised to address that fact.

      1. Jesse

        I’ve been arguing this for awhile now. Once they started using us as data collectors, we became their employees and are entitled compensation. Minimum wage is $15 per hour where I’m from.

    5. Gary Pearman

      After 4 decades in the world of digital electronics, I have gone dark. Most will not understand. This is not the vision we had. This is what occurs when capitalism goes unregulated. Socialism, Capitalism, are trigger words. Neither are useful;both are extreme. Somewhere, in the middle, is equality.
      Marketeers and money mongers have brought existence into question.

      The many will reign in the few.


    6. Larry Sanger, I watched you on Tucker Carson on Fox tv and I agree with you !

    7. Michele Schaner

      After being unfairly blocked out of my own Facebook account nearly six months ago, I believe—now, more than ever—the silent majority needs to stand strong in the face of digital tyranny. Enough!

      1. Mark Steiniger

        I support this

        1. JR Harris

          Thank you Larry Sanger keep up the fight we have no choice but to!

      2. Ömer haluk özarpacı

        Grev zamanı

    8. Peggy Witthoft

      Hats off to Larry Sanger! Thank you to Tucker Carlson, Shawn Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin. A loyal fan from Iowa.

    9. Devon Docksey

      I believe that’s this will be a critical step in transforming our society; we must not let data mining inhibit humanities personal growth.
      Through the use of subliminal programming, big tech and ad-agencies have enslaved the masses, all while encouraging their profitable behaviour under the guise of world progress.
      This detrimental social reconstruction effort must be highlighted and halted, those of us aware must take the lead in place of those trapped unwillingly by the now designed social ignorance; only we can truly free our fellow citizens.

    10. Sunshine Castro

      We need to hold out using social media for as long as it takes. I know two days is a start, but longer would be shocking. Thank you.

    11. Nancy Garcia

      What is Freedom if your every move is being watched , every conversation is recorded, and every place you travel your followed? They are using our privacy to them wealthy!

    12. Laurie Neal

      The word ha to get out! So many agree but won’t know.

      1. Konrad Zeverin

        Yes exactly. This strike will likely involve less than a millionth of total subscribers to social media and be lost in the error margin.

        It won’t have direct impact, but it contributes to gathering interest for subsequent action.

        There are at least millions, but perhaps 10s or 100s of millions of people who want to do something about the social media problem, but have no idea about this. It’s hard to estimate numbers given that many dissenters are probably not subscribed to social media groups that critique social media.

        Better marketing would be required, which is difficult when the big tech oligopoly unscrupulously censors anything that might lose them money… though I’m sure there is a way.

    13. i agree with you Larry

    14. Gustavo

      Hello Larry.
      The proposal is very interesting.
      It would be good if we had the text in other languages (for example, I speak Spanish) to be able to quote it in each other’s networks.
      Thank you

      1. I would be happy to link to or host any translations. Let me tweet out a call. I already did so at least once.

    15. Shane Patrice

      I’m signing because I ‘ve long heard of privacy concerns but I experienced real violation of it firsthand last night with Manual Update Required for a device I use connected to a major Shopping Network. The second I clicked on it I noticed in very small print on the left hand side additional permissions required, it was a very long list, between 40 or 50 additional permissions. I wish I could post the screenshot here because it was an astoundingly real invasion of privacy disguised as an update. We must to start taking these permissions seriously before we will no longer have any choice.

    16. Delores smith

      I support this declaration and do hereby give my full agreement with the Digital Declaration of Independence July 4th and 5th

    17. John Wood PHD

      I support any nonviolent means of resistance to the usurping of our rights to free speech on a public and protected platform. Blacklisting by the liberal or other groups no matter who, is an attack on my and all Americans civil rights.

    18. embraces the principles of Decentralized Social Networks, already implements most of them with plans to address the rest.

      1. Rayane


      2. Nikolay Nikolov

        Today’s Internet it isn’t what it was in late 90’s at all and.., most of the young people today don’t even know about this but we all want out privacy for sure! 100% support the cause.!

      3. Sherry Fowler

        I agree!!!!!

    19. Kim LoBianco

      Digital Independence Day

        1. Sérgio Rocha

          Pela nossa privacidade e direitos, eu apoio.

    20. Debbie Swink

      Larry, I saw you on Tucker Carlson, FOX News, and totally agree with you and plan on boycotting social media platforms on July 4th and 5th. My Declaration of Digital Independence.

    21. LazyJesse

      My name is LazyJesse, and this is my favorite Declaration on the internet.

    22. Mehmet Celal YAHYABEYOGLU

      I live in a country where Wikipedia is banned for years now. The ban is not valid me and for those who who know how to work it out. Still I would like to see my country freed from all sorts of sanctions imposed on my people.

      1. Joanne Heydon

        I agree with this digital declaration of independence Mr. SANGER. WHOLE HEARTEDLY! THANK YOU! Let’s see another Digital Delaration of Independence on July 4 2020!!

    23. I support a decentralized internet, decentralized social media, and a decentralized world.

      Christopher Damitio, CEO & Founder of Iwahai, Inc.

    24. Diane Wilson

      It’s about time we come together to defend our right to peacefully participate in civil conversations on social media without being pigeon holed to “a controlled liberal ‘Jail’ until the jailer decides we’ve paid a sufficient time in the shaming chamber”.

    25. Thank you for this, when I saw you on C,T, I was in, deleted FB off phone and ipad, addiction tools, I feel if you don’t want it pit there don’t put it there, the censorship is what im after

    26. Michael Pfaff

      I support this declaration and do hereby give my full agreement with the Declaration of Digital Independence.

      – Michael Pfaff

    27. Rosine Nanda

      Hi Larry,
      I am happy I found your blog through, it is comforting to see that others people are as interested as I am about digital independence. But it unfortunate that when it come to concrete action to remedy the situation not many would get involved. My conviction is that a technological issue can only be effectively solve by a better technology, relying on lawmaker is not an effective strategy. I started a project to build a viable alternative to the current state of affair and my kickstarter campaign failed.
      I was based in Montreal at the time, now I am in Calgary and the project can be done from anywhere, it is applicable world wide. I am hoping that yourself or members of your audience can help me with ideas and actions to make this happen. This is a problem that can be solved in less that 2 years and guaranties not only individual independence, but also organizations and all levels of government independence.
      Thank you

  2. Hopefully the Internet will be honestly free some day!

    1. From your lips to God’s (or Vishnu’s, or Zuckerberg and Dorsey’s, etc.) ears!

      1. Greg moffatt

        free speech is for all why is this so hard to understand

      2. Russell Rock


      3. Ramon Espinosa

        From your lips to Gods ear

    2. Jimmy Otto von der Atlantis-von Habsburg

      Agreed, free Internet are wellcome, maby take whe a fourht level.

  3. Dr. Sanger is exactly right. If those of us with “unpopular” views (libertarians, conservatives, Christians) don’t stand up against this digital Stalinism, the public sphere will become simply a vast Leftist-SJW echo chamber. And that domain is already far too intolerant.

    1. I’m going to rewrite my original reply to you, Dr. Tim.

      This is not just about securing the rights of the Right. It’s about securing the rights of everyone. Everyone’s rights are at risk when power is centralized. This is a big tent and there are signatories of many different casts of mind.

      Sure, I’m also concerned about the politicization of rules against abusive language. As with campus speech codes, these can affect the left just as much as the right. That’s important to me (this is why I keep pushing people to my “Free Speech Credo,” which has got quite a bit of play), but as I have become so concerned about privacy, the fact that centralizing social media makes the sale of proprietary user data a viable business model is an equally concerning issue. And this is not just a complaint about corporate unfairness or excess. Knowledge is power. This is what drives the manipulative techniques that social media companies use. This is one of the reasons we feel less in control of our online lives post-social media. This is also what makes mass surveillance possible.

      I’m not saying that people who share a lot won’t be able to be effectively surveilled (as people’s blogs can be) by the NSA. But I am saying that if we routinely used end-to-end encryption for our chats, including closed group chats (as many Slack ones, e.g., are), then monitoring might be much more difficult. And if we’re our own sources of data and the arbiters of how our feeds/UX work, then we’ll be less capable of being effectively tracked by corporations and governments that want to play us like a fiddle.

      If we’re worried about creeping totalitarianism (regardless of whether we think it’s more likely to come from the left or the right), the solution is to disempower our would-be masters. Decentralizing social media is the way to do that.

      1. The simple fact of the matter is, most people don’t fully comprehend just how much computational power a simple tablet, phone, or low-end computer really has, because all that power has been stifled in order to serve the needs of profiteers. Clock cycles and banks of memory are wasted for the purpose of collecting personal data in order to deliver advertising. The benefits of the internet connections we pay for and the hardware we’ve paid for should be ours alone to enjoy the full benefit of and the benefits of things like social media should not exist solely for the bottom line of a profiteer, but rather for the good of all humankind.

        1. Steph

          Saw you on Tucker Carlson tonight. It takes guts to start a revolution like this. You have my support. After being in Facebook jail 3 times, I figured out that it was because I shared a couple of mildly political posts.

      2. Russell Rock

        Going in the best direction.
        Love it Larry Sanger.

    2. Ramon Espinosa


  4. The key challenge is actually raising user awareness and getting an urgent call to action which users will respond to. It seems the level of consternation is small relative to the size of the problem and apathy prevails.

    There is a large looming problem related to abuse, harassment and manipulation by dark forces. Just as with the 2016 election there needs to be strong methods to prevent abuse. It’s a big challenge and balancing act in how to preserve privacy and maintain free speech while preventing abuse. Underlying this is identify and whether a real person who has confirmed identity is required and how to implement that so it is fail safe.

    1. Let’s discuss this a bit, Steve. I don’t deny that it’s a problem if bad foreign actors have decided to try to influence each others’ electoral processes. But I’m not sure that centralizing or decentralizing is going to have any effect on this, although a common claim is that there are specifically deleterious effects of Facebook’s and maybe Twitter’s algorithms. They are engineered to highlight whatever potentially gets the most attention, but (the claim goes) just such algorithms can be manipulated by bad actors to, among other things, put us at each others’ throats. Maybe there’s something to that, but I’d like somebody to make the whole case, not just make vague allusions to a conspiracy theory involving the big, bad Russians.

      Similarly with “abuse” and “harassment.” Many seem to have bought it hook, line, and sinker that there is something new and unusually nefarious about how the right treats the left, or minorities and women. Never mind that the left slags the right arguably much worse than vice-versa, and they have the weight of giant corporations and governments on their side. It seems to me that if you did buy this, then you might well wonder if decentralization is the right way forward. After all, it is the centralization of power in the hands of giant (left-leaning) corporations that makes it possible to rein in those evil bigoted conservatives. Am I wrong?

      It’s strange to me that nobody talked about how the right was abusing the left (or the disadvantaged, etc.) in the 2000s when the Blogosphere was much more active, or when people abused each other all the time on Usenet and mailing lists; the dynamics were much the same back then. No, the notion that there is something new and nefarious and disproportionately weighted on the right seems to be what the Powers That Be (especially orgs devoted to manipulating the media, such as Media Matters and assorted thinktanks) have decided we must all now believe.

      And I think the reason they have decided we must all now believe that, is that this gets people like you thinking about how we can censor ever-larger swathes of undesirable political speech (because it’s harmful of course! It’s violent!) while still somehow persuading ourselves that we really do still respect political free speech. This is politically effective, as the left-wing pundits, politicians, and “media analysts” know—they’re salivating at the prospect of silencing their opponents—precisely because the power is now so centralized and concentrated in the hands of giant left-leaning corporations that can “moderate” (nah, it’s not censorship because corporations can’t censor, it’s just moderation!) their opponents into well-deserved oblivion.

      The thing is, again, if we decentralize social media, we are disempowering these corporations. Are you really on board with that, Steve?

      1. Thanks for your comments. I think you are right centralize or decentralize both have issues with this. Centralize you have rule by fiat, and decentralize its hard to have any rules or control as it will be a free for all.

        You come down on the side of free speech and I’m on the fence because of the great harm harassments and abuse can have on both groups and individuals.

        Alas, next generation technologies to motivate adoption much by definition be better to such a degree that people will flock to get the value. I’m not sure privacy protection is sufficient to motivate a shift.

        In terms of political camps both left and right are complaining about the actions (or lack there of) of social media. From banning of select individuals to the doctored Nancy Pelosi tape the issues are being bandied about.

        1. JAG

          “great harm harassments and abuse can have on both groups and individuals”.. I completely disagree with you here Stephen. Words are not “harmful”. If one is so delicate, they should simply abstain from entering this great forum we call the Internet. I’m sorry but free speech means free speech. There are laws that already cover extremities quite well. Defamation and Libel laws. Serious threat and harassment laws. They work just fine in meatspace and they work just fine in Internet blogs. Enforce those laws and we are done. There is no difference. If I’m in public and someone humiliates me and calls me really nasty names, guess what? I still can’t beat them to a pulp. I must simply remove myself, or fire back verbally. That’s the way it is, and it’s worked well in the real world. Why would you think it’s MORE severe online. At least you are not present for the semi-abuse. It’s factually less severe in many ways, as in, it can’t immediately result in physical harm. Which is largely WHY the rhetoric is more intense in the Ether. That, and quasi-anonymity. Oh well. You say “great harm” for effect, as if that is an obvious fact. Get real, it’s no different than being in the halls of a Junior High school.

          Free Speech.. F sensitivity. This is America. It’s the constant whingy statements like yours that cause us all to go down these truly harmful roads of Identity Politics, Division, Hate speech, etc.. which costs us our freedom of speech in the process. No. Grow a pair. If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen. That’s life in the FREE world.

          Decentralization is, therefore, the answer. Wow, big surprise. It ALWAYS is.

          Peace to you.

      2. The wealthy have *always* influenced elections. It’s gotten so blatant, with a vanishing point between corporate and governmental, that a scapegoat was warranted for PR purposes. If you’re one of those media-responsive Russiaphobes, scribble out my signature, because the only threat in the room *is* western Capitalism.

    2. Michaela Branstutter

      Wholeheartedly agree! #freespeech

    3. Brenda Steadham

      Brenda Steadham here I agree with you Larry

  5. The challenge is that the general public is apathetic with the urgency and the impact happening by the current state of affairs. Rather than unaware, they are not concerned to a level which they are willing to strike and separate from their networks. The costs they are paying are subtle and they do not value what they are losing strongly enough to motivate change.

    A second challenge is solving the problems of harassment and abuse without restricting free speech. Is a real confirmed identity needed and how to protect those who want to remain anonymous ? How can the users be protected from abuse by nation states such as Russia or Al Qeada or the elites ?

    1. Maybe you thought your first message wasn’t posted so you tried again?

      There’s a lag because I moderate all comments. (My general rule is to allow everything except what is personally abusive to another user.)

    2. Dorrie McKee

      Let us please remember, the First Amendment is #1 for a reason! NO individual, corporation or government is allowed to interfere with the rights under that Amendment. These rights are afforded to us all as Americans, regardless of how that “makes” anyone feel. There is no constitutional right to not have ones feelings hurt.
      Internet and social media companies are becoming social engineers with the manipulation of data they have collected from us, in the guise of convenience. Sure, we love to sync our calendars, but do we want these companies to “select” our reading material? Do we want them to suppress opinions that they find objectionable? Do we want these companies to know, and share, our location, pictures, habits, personal history, and our anticipated thoughts? This is an unreasonable search and seizure of our lives…. and don’t be naive, they are giving (or maybe even selling) this information to our government. It is time to fight back and get our privacy back.

  6. Harshit Rana

    The fourth principle in and of itself would lead one to believe that there are *no* conditions under which private conversations can be eavesdropped in our homes which is of course not the case. However in most democracies at least officially it can only be done through a fair and open legal process that is itself open to scrutiny. Therefore it begs the question as to whether it is a special previlege we are demanding for the virtual world or merely denouncing the lack of legal safeguards to prevent snooping from all actors commercial, governments and otherwise. Although the point itself does get answered in the principle regarding clear standards and lack of monopolies, as well as in the point regarding internet being a common resource, principle 4 in and of itself might only be possible in the more decentralised form which is not a standard that can be applied to present day corporate controlled social media. Hope the tyranny ends soon and free internet is truly accessible to all with or without technical skills and resources to resort to mechanisms that we have to today. Hope that soon we will have clearer terms and conditions that are well defined and regulated by the users. Hope.

    1. Good point that the statement is too strong. Will add “without extraordinarily good reasons”.

      You raise an interesting point when you discuss a “special privilege,” but I don’t think the premises justify the conclusion. You say, perfectly correctly, that the law can have very sound reasons for eavesdropping, searching, etc. But it does not follow from that that the law has the right to demand that people make it easy or even in principle possible to eavesdrop in advance. (The law can demand you give up your private keys for decrypting a chat; but it can’t demand that you never encrypt your chats.) Skilled security experts have found many ways to guarantee their privacy, even before computers came about. Though the government certainly has the prerogative to carry out searches when necessary for the fair and open execution of justice, it has never been thought necessary that we have an obligation to make this particularly easy for the government.

      Besides, there are ways around end-to-end encryption. Hackers can be very very creative. That’s one of the things that makes a hacker skilled.

      In any event, creating a “back door” for government eavesdropping, such as Mark Zuckerberg has suggested, has four absolutely unacceptable consequences. The first is that the government is empowered eavesdrop on everyone even without a warrant; I don’t mean such searching is legal but that government agents have the tools at their disposal. Thus if an administration or government turns out to be corrupt, this gives them incredible tyrannical power they wouldn’t otherwise have. The risk is enormous.

      The second is that if the government has the keys, hackers can hack the keys. This is perhaps a more significant problem. Any government backdoor will be hacked (remember, hackers are creative) and that will render all supposedly encrypted communication transparent to unscrupulous and criminal elements.

      A third is that this gives the government much too much data about conversations that are taking place. Whenever anybody started an encrypted chat, the app would have to phone home to the government (and how many governments, by the way?) and register the chat. This act alone would provide massive amounts of data to the government. “Not good.”

      Fourth, governments and other powerful entities will absolutely require strong encryption. This creates a power imbalance between them and hoi polloi.

  7. The ideas in this document should have been executed a long time ago. In abstract concept, I distinctly support the direction and ends of the document. I think from a practical perspective, getting to such an end will entail actions that most don’t anticipate yet, but more sophisticated thinkers do.

    1. Thanks, Sam. Yes, we should have pushed back a lot harder when (e.g.) Twitter dropped support of a common micropost standard. Curious what you think the unanticipated actions might be.

      It is a perfectly legit worry that what I’m proposing isn’t even really possible. I think it is, but it’s worth discussing.

  8. JC Carmichael, DBA

    Dr. Sanger’s nine principals of decentralized social networks could be the change that is needed to move such systems out of the “digital ghetto” and into a fairer future for all.

  9. Matthew Aaron wrote me with the following comments:

    I think what you are doing is great and I can’t wait to put my signature on it. But, I will take the time first to give you feedback (as this is what I expect you were looking for).

    I like your structure

    1. Problem/Solution: I like how you set up the problem and communicate the problems that face the current ecosystems of internet communication, social media, media etc… However, I think that it should be addressed more general instead of trying to make the corporations the bad guy (even if they are, they are not alone in their maliciousness). Let me rewrite one of your examples

    Maybe I would in your thesis statement expand to encompass the governments around the world, the governments failure to understand or care about the problem, the corporations, the silos of control, governments inability to act in good faith for the people, and the willingness that government have to let companies control speech as, at least in the USA, the government legally cannot. So, they allow big companies free reign

    “They have failed to provide clear ways to opt out of such marketing schemes.”

    I do not like the “they” in these sentences as it limits the focus of what you are writing and limits the importance.

    Maybe try: the overseeing bodies of the world, the oligarchy, the governments, corporations, and biased laws….

    Or direct all the “they” statements to be more general

    “They have failed to provide clear ways to opt out of such marketing schemes.”

    – My Take: We are not provided with way to opt out of sharing data.

    “They have subjected users to such terms and surveillance even when users pay them for products and services.”

    My take: – We have been subjected to terms that allow surveillance of our person, assets, and families, without our knowledge

    “They have failed to provide adequate and desirable options that users may use to guide their own experience of their services, preferring to manipulate users for profit.”

    – My take: We have unknowingly been provided “free” services that use our use of said service against us by way of exploiting us for profit, being client-centric not user-centric, manipulating elections, muting free speech

    “They have treated users arrogantly as a fungible resource to be exploited and controlled rather than being treated respectfully, as free, independent, and diverse partners.”

    – My Take: we have no other option to use their services and provide the free use of our data. This the only way to interact, communicate, transact, trade, buy/sell, or participate with current platforms. Or else, cannot participate in modern society.

    I would be happy to hop on a call and explain what I mean if this doesnt make sense. I am not the best writer. However, I think a declaration should not point at just the companies but all entities that attack our liberties and point to solutions that are in reach of the people.

    1. Thanks, Matt. The reason I don’t criticize government inaction is that I fear government action. If they start punishing companies for censoring voices for political reasons, they become the arbiters of who may and may not speak. You might say, “No no, that’s the whole point, they will prevent corporate censorship,” to which I say, “Good luck with that.” After all, governments around the world are now requiring companies to do censorship for them. More to the point, if a government punishes a corporation for banning someone for political reasons, the government must then rule on the question of whether some particular banning is licit or not. Do you really want the government making those rules?

      In fact, the Declaration describes an alternative solution to government regulation. A truly decentralized system, such as the DNS system and the Blogosphere, pretty much needs no government regulation (thank goodness).

      I made a new version in order to clarify just what “they” means. I can’t agree to clarifying that the culprit is the government; the problem is with Big Tech corporations. As you might or might not know, I’m philosophically a capitalist. But that doesn’t mean I must approve of everything corporations do, of course. But being a capitalist, I am highly suspicious of regulations of giant corporations, which tend to be supported rather too eagerly by the corporations themselves–because regulations give them legal immunity and a competitive advantage.

      More replies later.

  10. Technology, when inaccessible, becomes isolating and therefore limiting. The future is going to be led by distributed organizations that blur boundaries and administer their resources rather than hold onto them. Information is power, and we need to take our power back.

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