One of the major digital policy challenges we are facing today is that of corporate consolidation: never has so much information, science and technology been controlled by so few!
Modern information and technology control started with the conquest of the Internet and, to a very large extent, the same players now expand their domination into areas like artificial intelligence, education, transport and medicine.
Their knowledge base and control exceed those of most democratically-elected governments.
In the area of culture and intellectual property rights, the European Parliament recently approved the Commission’s draft adaptation of European copyright law to increased digital distribution. One of the new obligations will be that of mandatory upload filters (i.e. a system which will allow pro-active monitoring of copyright protected works). This is thought mainly to protect the music and video industry while the instauration of a “snippet tax” is intended to compensate the newspaper industry.
These initiatives demonstrate that regulation is now critical.
Had the Net not been concentrated in the hands of a few overwhelmingly dominant players, “natural market mechanisms” would have “done the job” and proper remuneration of creative worlds could have been achieved through negotiation.
Unfortunately the modern platform economy no longer allows the “market place” to perform its functions and regulation is vital.
It is striking how the original visions of a decentralised “New World” have turned into the exact opposite.
The time has come to seriously revisit the utopian and celebratory dreams of the 90s as famously embodied in John Perry Barlow’s 1996 Declaration of Independence.
The below adaptation of the original Declaration is intended to encourage a debate on the respective roles of tech companies and regulators ensuring that the necessary checks and balances be put in place. Further consolidation may gravely put at risk our societal values and human rights.
Declaration of Independence II
(Barlow’s and our aspirations meet the facts).
Data Subjects of all countries unite!
We were promised ultimate freedom and liberty and instead we have become serfs of new masters.
Your tyranny has overshadowed and transcended that of government – yet you are not elected.
You have highjacked our space, our freedom and our sovereignty.
You have no moral right to rule us or possess us.
You are not welcome among us.
You do not answer to democracy, but you will have to answer to us, the People.
Your arrogance and indifference to human tragedy, your abuse and avid concentration of power and hegemony disqualify you from the role you have usurped.
You have transformed our dreams and promises of decentralised freedom into a centralised nightmare.
Under the pretext of saving the world you fill your coffers without contributing to society.
You have degraded us to products in your realm. Products that deserve no respect.
Governments cannot and will not stop you, but we the People will. We will boycott your services. We will take our clicks away and your empire will crumble.
You have no right to make judgments affecting life and death.
We no longer trust you.
What you fear most is our passion. What you lack most is compassion.
Privacy is not dead. Get over it.
Now, here are our demands:
You will give us back control over our lives.
We will only allow you to co-exist with us if you accept that with power come obligations and your disregard of ethics and social responsibility ceases.
You are not above the law and your failure to assume your obligations and contribute towards society are shameful.
Your abuse of your overwhelmingly dominant position and your failure to take ethics into account when developing or acquiring new technology and services (you develop little yourself) are intolerable.
You will allow Data Subjects all over the world to take control of their own data and immediately heed their demands for deletion and de-referencing except for those wielding corporate or public power.
You will not anoint yourself to be the judge over the “appropriateness” of such demands.
You will ensure transparency and allow independent inspection to verify that our demands have been met and that data has been definitely and permanently erased from your gigantic data troves — because we do not trust you.
You will create an ethics board with unbiased experts who will monitor your new “technology” whether developed in-house or acquired, and in particular those technologies that apply to artificial intelligence.
You will refrain from further abuse of your dominant position to destroy any alternative to your “services” and consolidate your power in other areas even more.
This time we will create a true civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace.
May it be more humane and fair than the world you have made.