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Corralling the Internet: MA Advocates Fight Back

Panelists discussing Internet freedom at the National Conference for Media Reform included Bostonís Holmes Wilson (left), who warned of the latest government and corporate threats to Internet Freedom. Courtesy Mark Scheerer
Panelists discussing Internet freedom at the National Conference for Media Reform included Bostonís Holmes Wilson (left), who warned of the latest government and corporate threats to Internet Freedom. Courtesy Mark Scheerer
April 8, 2013

BOSTON - Issues of Internet freedom have been the focus of a three-day meeting in Denver. The National Conference for Media Reform brought together thousands of policymakers, advocates and tech experts, including attendees from Massachusetts, who met to discuss such issues as protecting the Internet from government, and corporate attempts at limiting its free and unfettered usage.

Congressional bills to regulate the Internet, known as SOPA and PIPA, were roundly rejected last year when grassroots activists organized petitions, protests and a one-day service blackout on the Web. However, according to Boston-based activist Holmes Wilson, the next threats to the Internet are on the doorstep and may require similar uprisings.

"People care immensely about the Internet; it's so important to them, and there's so many ways that it could get messed up," he warned. "It's honestly, actually, pretty fragile."

Advocates pointed to a cyber-security bill in Congress called CISPA which they say is deeply flawed, a move by AT&T to dissolve regulations regarding affordable and open networks, and international trade agreements that would affect Internet freedom.

Wilson, who co-founded Fight for the Future, said that this week, behind closed doors, Washington lawmakers will look at CISPA, which he called a civil-liberties-threatening cyber-security bill.

"Allowing companies to give all of your personal data to the government without any warrant," he alleged. "And the government would be able to use that data against you to prosecute you potentially for separate crimes."

Craig Aaron, whose group, Free Press, hosted the conference, declared that the uprising against SOPA and PIPA has had a lasting effect.

"The good news is that if you're on Capitol Hill right now, you'll still hear members of Congress talking about not getting 'SOPA'd', he said. "What we really have to watch out for is these big companies, if they don't get their way in Washington, they'll go try to do it at the local level. If they don't get their way at the local level, they'll go try to do it internationally, sneak things into trade agreements."

Some 22 advocates and experts from the Bay State were participants in the three-day conference.

This story was produced as part of the Media Consortium's Media Policy Reporting and Education Project, thanks to a generous grant from the Media Democracy Fund.




Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - MA