Thursday, February 26, 2015

Net Neutrality Congratulations and Thanks

"The Internet is the ultimate vehicle for free expression."
                               Tom Wheeler, FCC Chairman, February 26, 2015
Congratulations and thank you to the civil society actors who acted to help protect an open internet.

Berkman Center
Center for Democracy and Technology
Common Cause
CREDO Action
Daily Kos
Demand Progress
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Free Press
Fight for the Future
Ford Foundation
Internet Archive
Knight Foundation
MacArthur Foundation
Media Action Grassroots Network
Mozilla Foundation
National Hispanic Media Coalition
OpenTechnology Institute
Open Society Foundation
Progressive Change Campaign Committee
Public Knowledge
Stanford Center on Internet and Society
Marvin Ammori
Jennifer Granick
Tim Wu
Barbara Van Schewick
and many, many others.

This a key marker of Digital Civil Society. It counts as a victory both for and of the space. The organizations above, most of which are nonprofits, and the hundreds of thousands of people (millions?) who mobilized through these organizations, with these organizations, or simply in proximity to these organizations came together to protect the right to association and expression on equal terms in digital environments. They formulated, organized for, petitioned and persisted in enacting public policy that protects our right to come together and be heard with digital tools and on digital infrastructure. [Here's a new report on how it happened] An effect of the FCC ruling to govern the internet and wireless devices under Title II will be continued fair access to digital space for civic association and expression.

It is also a marker of the arrival of an effective, distributed, diverse set of civil society actors built from and dedicated to a digital environment. The actions that made this policy happen are truly "of" the digital age - they are informed by it, shaped by it, and committed to it.

Essentially, with this victory civil society made its own continued existence possible.

This is not the first time (nor will it be the last) that civil society has preserved it's own potential. The history of public spaces and parks, of the First Amendment, of libraries and information access, of rural telephony - these histories precede today's accomplishment. And the accomplishment is more important because of those roots. It is truly an extension of longstanding, core values of democracy into the digital environment and not the compromise of those values by technological complexity or corporate preemption.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Philosophy Talk on Cyber Activism

The radio program Philosophy Talk invited me on to discuss issues of digital civil society. I thought we were going to discuss freedom of association, free expression, and the architecture of the Internet compared to the design choices coded into the apps and web sites built on top of it. I was excited to discuss civil society's need for software that encodes its values and the changing practices of nonprofits and digital humanitarians.

It didn't go quite like that, but we still had a good time. We wound up talking a lot about public-ness, privacy, and digital tools for organizing. You can hear the stream here. You can read Professors Perry and Taylor's blog post here and check out the transcript from a great follow-up web chat here. The questions in the web chat are really good and I found myself wanting to continue those conversations (but alas, that's not the way the technology works).

I cited the research of Zeynep Tufecki, Ethan Zuckerman, Marc Goodman, David Bollier, and Lee Sproull and the work of the Responsible Data Forum, Benetech, ACLU, and Electronic Frontier Foundation throughout the conversations.

And, in the interest of timeliness, read this piece from the Washington Post on how social medai still needs community organizing if change is really possible.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Crowdfunding and philanthropy

A community foundation friend just asked me what's up with crowdfunding? New wine in old bottles or new money? Here's what I said:

"Crowdfunding is here to stay in some form.  I think it's "gateway giving" for folks who live entirely online (now including everyone), will bring in new small dollars that add up, tools for it need to be built natively for mobile devices, and *might* make regular small giving a behavior again for people the way tithing used to be, but won't involve the organizational loyalty of tithing nor will it always be directed to nonprofits."
What's your two cents on crowdfunding and philanthropy?

The Stanford PACS Digital Civil Society Lab is hosting a charrette on civic crowdfunding in May. We're trying to understand where and how crowdfunding tools fit into the overall landscape of private resources for public benefit. Will have more to post here and at the Lab's site.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The #NetGain Challenge

It's great to see several big foundations recognizing that digital infrastructure is now fundamental to civil society. Check out the #NetGainChallenge for several ideas about what we need to ensure that independent private action for public benefit continues to thrive in the digital age. Here's how leaders of five major US Foundations describe the challenge we face:
"In the digital age, it’s essential that the principles that brought us here, of equal access to economic opportunity and civic life, be maintained and preserved."
Ideas for public good software, independent online meeting spaces (not owned by business or surveilled by governments), new forms of philanthropy from the digital wealthy, universal access, new behaviors by existing foundations - you can find all these and more.

We've added ideas from the Digital Civil Society Lab - namely the need for Three Kinds of Code that protect the values and ethics of civil society - new software code, organizational code, and (likely) legal code (or regulations).

We need to engage civil society in internet/wireless/cybersecurity policy debates and connect those debates to the values and needs of civil society. This requires inviting new policy actors to the nonprofit and philanthropy policy tables and getting philanthropy and civil society to show up at the digital policy discussions.

A live gathering is happening today in New York City - livestream is here. Website to vote on ideas is here.