The Fight for Net Neutrality Is a Fight for Freedom of Speech and Democracy

The Internet as we know it is a magnificent space where everyone has the right to share their thoughts freely. However, people living in dictatorships experience a much different Internet: Censorship, blocking of major sites or social media platforms are normal to them. If we allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to decide what content they want to show us and what content they want to block, this is exactly how we can expect our future Internet to look like. To protect freedom of speech and democracy, we must fight for net neutrality now.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants to destroy net neutrality in the United States. They plan to give big cable companies control over what we see and do online. This will allow widespread throttling, blocking, censorship, and extra fees.

Defending net neutrality is defending democracy

Defending net neutrality is like a first step to defend democracy itself. If net neutrality is lost, there is no way of turning back: Big corporations will own the Internet, big corporations will decide what we see online, big corporations will dominate the public opinion, big corporations will dominate any future decision to be made in Politics.

Let's win this fight to prove the power of the Internet

If we win this fight for a free and open Internet, we prove the power of the Internet. The Internet has become the perfect place to organize public resistance when the ruling class tries to seize too much power. We have to keep control of what belongs to us: The Internet must remain free and open!

Now is the time for every Internet user to join the battle for net neutrality:

A free Internet empowers democratic values

The Internet is a magnificent place where everyone can share their ideas, every information can get out and reach an audience easily. This is what has made the Internet so popular compared to streamline media like newspapers and television. It is also a great resource for human rights activists and freedom fighters in oppressing dictatorships.

There the Internet gives people the opportunity to inform the public about violations of human rights and a communication tool to organize protests. In Western democracies the Internet is central as well when it comes to freedom of speech and organizing protests. This is what the Internet community is doing right now: We protest against taking away our free Internet and giving it into the hands of a few large organizations.

The Internet as we know it will vanish, as will democracy

If the FCC hands over the power to control the Internet to ISPs, the Internet as we know it will vanish. It will be replaced by an Internet without freedom, just like the Internet in a dictatorship. The only difference will be that not the government decides what we see online, but huge corporations.

Big companies will have the money to pay extra fees to get their content out while start-ups, NGOs, and independent projects will run into enormous difficulties. As they won't be able to pay the fees, their content will just vanish. This undemocratic treatment of information makes an independent and neutral informing of the public impossible. In the end, democracy as we know it will cease to exist.

Background info: What is net neutrality

A free and open Internet depends on all data being treated equally, no matter what site or company the data comes from. It is a basic principle to protect freedom of speech online. The legal foundation for net neutrality in the US is "Title II" of the Communications Act. This law prevents ISPs like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T from slowing down and blocking websites, or charging apps and sites extra fees to reach an audience.

Title II contains three important rules

No Blocking. Simply put: An ISP can't block lawful content, applications, services or non-harmful devices.

No Throttling. ISPs are not allowed to slow down specific applications or services, a practice known as throttling. Providers are prohibited to single out Internet traffic based on who sends it, where it's going, what the content happens to be or whether that content competes with the provider's business.

No Paid Prioritization. An ISP cannot accept fees for favored treatment. In short, the rules prohibit Internet fast lanes.

Join the protest on July 12th and onwards!

On July 12th the Internet is uniting to fight for net neutrality. From the SOPA blackout to the Internet Slowdown, we've shown time and time again that when the Internet comes together, we can stop censorship and corruption. Now, we have to do it again! Each and every one of us has to take action to stop the FCC's attack on our free and open Internet.

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Matthias is co-founder and developer of Tutanota. I write code to fight for our human right to privacy. I want to create a cloud service which is so easy to use and so secure that it locks out all the spies. We really deserve better.

Posted on: 2017-07-11

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