Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Open and Free

Every day I open up my bookmarked “news” tabs and read about increased dragnet surveillance, data mining, and – especially this summer – the very real threat to net neutrality. Little by little our online experiences have changed without us even knowing it. Over time my personal information has gone up for sale, my online persona has become commoditized, and what others can know about me has slipped out of my control. The lack of transparency in this process – this huge gap of communication between the people in power and their constituents – is destroying the democratic nature of the web. They are treating the user public like a group of complacent domesticated zoo animals. And it all boils down to do one thing: choice.

To have choice – to understand the pros and cons of different arguments and perspectives – we need to educate ourselves, explore, and to challenge. We need an open and free web where we can navigate the winding corridors of society. The discussions around net neutrality were a beautiful display of the openness the web can provide: people learned about the threats, were activated to take a stand, and were given the opportunity to confront the authorities.

There are many freedoms worldwide – political, cultural, social – that are being threatened by various powerful groups. Protecting the open web – the tool that allows us to learn and communicate – means protecting those rights and the right to express them. At the moment, we still have many choices online, but a lot of them are hidden behind default settings and a complicated network of check boxes. This is exactly why it’s time to defend our right to choice, demand transparency, and call for keeping the web open and free.

What can the Mozilla community do? 
In my experience, Mozillians are powerful and effective at raising awareness and spurring others to action. At a higher-level, the partnerships built between companies and organizations – like reddit, Open Technology Institute, and the ACLU during the Battle for the Net – create a solid platform that people can understand and join. Mozilla took something that sounded confusing and dry, and made it real and relatable – even fun for kids – with details like #TeamInternet vs #TeamCable. 

On the individual level, the Mozilla community is made up of people who have the know-how and the drive to take vague issues and make them real at home. In August I was a part of the Knight-Mozilla Open News MediaParty event in Buenos Aires where I met journalists, data analysts, and coders who fight for open journalism. During our Net Neutrality workshop, community members shared about how Chilean laws protecting net neutrality are negatively impacting disadvantaged people. A discussion about capitalism started, which inspired another participant – who is drafting a law to protect net neutrality in Argentina – to include a clause about corporate social responsibility. Mozillians aren't just passionate, they also know the right people to speak to and have contacts to enact real change.

In the battle to protect the open and free web, Mozillians around the world play a key role in rounding up the troops. Only they can reach their communities – both physically and intellectually – and, most importantly, they want to. By launching the Ford-Mozilla Open Web Fellows program the advocacy team is giving others the opportunity to join this fight, to become a Mozillian, and to protect what is rightfully theirs. Having this choice is what is most important to me in the web.