The Economist on Internet Politics

PoliticalProgressInternetOn Monday I gave a round-up of my posts on internet politics over the past year or so. Recently The Economist wrote a similar review. It is worth reading in full if this topic interests you. In this post we will discuss a few key points from that article, demonstrating the increasing relevance of politics online.

SOPA was not the only bill introduced that would have infringed on internet freedoms:

The success at the ITU conference in Dubai capped a big year for online activists. In January they helped defeat Hollywood-sponsored anti-piracy legislation, best known by the acronym SOPA, in America’s Congress. A month later, in Europe, they took on ACTA, an obscure international treaty which, in seeking to enforce intellectual-property rights, paid little heed to free speech and privacy. In Brazil they got closer than many would have believed possible to securing a ground-breaking internet bill of rights, the “Marco Civil da Internet”. In Pakistan they helped to delay, perhaps permanently, plans for a national firewall, and in the Philippines they campaigned against a cybercrime law the Supreme Court later put on hold.

The internet is indeed developing its own political culture:

The internet is nothing if not an exercise in interconnection. Its politics thus seems to call out for a similar convergence, and connections between the disparate interest groups that make up the net movement are indeed getting stronger. Beyond specific links, they also share what Manuel Castells, a Spanish sociologist, calls the “culture of the internet”, a contemporary equivalent of the 1960s counter-culture (in which much of the environmental movement grew up).

There are even political parties who make advocating for internet freedoms a key part of their platform:

In some countries the nascent net movement has spawned “pirate parties” that focus on net-policy issues; the first, in Sweden, was descended from the Pirate Bay, a site created to aid file sharing after Napster, a successful music-sharing scofflaw, was shut down. Pirate Party International, an umbrella group, already counts 28 national organisations as members. Most are small, but Germany’s Piratenpartei, founded in 2006, has captured seats in four regional parliaments.

One of the leaders of the German Pirate Party, Marina Weisband, even used a computing metaphor when asked about her party’s platform: “We don’t offer a ready-made programme, but an entire operating system.” This is similar to an idea from Reid Hoffman that we have discussed before.

Political parties and international treaties are not the only signs of a political life on the internet. Like any venue in which people have to develop a common life, norms and expectations of behavior have already begun to form. In the coming years and decades it will become even more evident that the internet is another area in which the politics of everyday life will play out. We should pay attention.