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User Rights for the Internet Age: Communications Policy According to “Netizens”

Arne Hintz and Stefania Milan

Introduction

“Governments of the Industrial World, … leave us alone!” John Perry Barlow famously proclaimed in his Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace: “You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather” (Barlow 1996: 1). It was a strong rejection of the most established policy-maker and policy level, the state, and thus, the cornerstone of the traditional policy process. If “the legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us” (Barlow 1996), then what does?

In this chapter, we develop a critical perspective on established policy processes by looking at the policy frameworks, agendas, and interventions of Internet activists. We investigate the realm of individuals who create media infrastructures as well as content outside the private sector, the state, and public service institutions and, often, on a voluntary basis. They are typically organized as loose associations of peers or as grassroots collectives functioning according to principles such as horizontal decision-making and equality. This sector includes what we term “grassroots tech groups” which offer web site hosting, email and mailing list services, chats, and other technological tools to provide an alternative communication infrastructure to civil society activists and citizens. These groups embrace Indymedia and other online news platforms ...

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