Saving the internet isn’t about protests or petitions – it’s about weaving our values about the internet into enduring cultural standards.
Imagine, if you will, a futuristic world:
A world where people built buildings, and businesses set up inside those buildings, and customers came inside and purchased things,
Some people don’t sell things, they just build places where people can talk or share things they’ve created,
In some of these buildings people come together and share knowledge, help each other, or give each other love,
In some of these buildings people find hope, inspiration or education,
A universe of information is available to anyone and everyone,
In some of these buildings people can see things they have never seen before, and lots of lives are changed forever.
And there are magical roads that connect all these buildings, roads that can move people instantly to whatever building they want to visit anywhere in the world,
And the people who built these magical roads charge a tiny fee for you to use their infinite power.
And there are rules in this amazing world, simple ones like our own,
It’s frowned upon to be mean to other people in public,
You can’t steal something that somebody else created,
It’s not okay to shoplift from any business, even the immensely successful ones,
Police can’t barge into anybody’s home without a warrant,
You can’t spy on people in the privacy of their own homes,
And everyone is equal.
But this world had a problem – it was super easy to break the rules.
Everybody stole everything they could get their hands on,
Everybody spied on one another and stole from one another,
Everybody carried tons of stuff on the magical roads and caused horrible traffic without paying extra,
Everybody shared stuff they weren’t allowed to have,
Everybody kept information about other people and used it for nefarious purposes,
Nobody paid for anything,
And the people who built the magical roads started charging whatever they wanted for passage because people abused the magic roads.
Soon the perfect world was falling apart.
The police stormed into any business or house they want and took whatever they want, whenever they wanted, without a warrant,
Big businesses spied on everyone who came into their businesses, keeping little files of information about every single person,
Governments broke into any business or home they wanted and took anything they wanted, just like the police,
The people in charge of the magic roads started charging whatever they wanted, and soon some people couldn’t afford to go certain places,
Or customers couldn’t afford to visit their businesses.
Suddenly, everything that made this world perfect was gone.
There was no free information, nobody could get to it.
There was no privacy, powerful people took it all.
There was no protection, the police don’t help.
There were no small businesses, they couldn’t afford to stay open.
The magic roads were too expensive for some people to use,
And the perfect world fell apart until there was nothing left.
The perfect world died because the people in that world forgot some important things:
That if you love something, you shouldn’t take advantage of it,
And that the government can protect the things you love and value if you tell them to,
And sometimes it’s important to pay for things because you respect them,
And rules exist because they help life go smoothly,
And that it’s not okay to prey on weak people,
And when you’re inside somebody else’s building or on the magic roads, you are, in fact, in public where people can see you,
And that this world was wonderful not because it kept people apart,
But because it brought people together,
It made people better, smarter, more connected,
It gave them infinite knowledge.
But their greed ruined it all,
And before those people could even stand up and say “Hey!
We think this stuff is important and we want to protect it,”
It was all gone forever.