My name is Susan Crawford, and I’m here to contribute a OneWebDay story.
My sense is that all the hyperbole about the Internet – transformative! world-changing! - doesn’t actually capture its impact, because we’re living through the change. It has been a very interesting time to be alive, in my view, and I’m particularly glad that I got to see part of the beginning.
Often people I run into talk about *just how long* they’ve been online. They have memories from the 1980s, from early newsgroups, from running community bulletin boards. I’m not one of those people. I first ran into email in 1990 at a small law firm in Los Angeles that was doing software copyright litigation. By the time I moved to Washington in 1992, computers were on all the lawyers’ desks. But I didn’t go to an online site until 1995, I think – and that was a virtual beach house called The Spot.
I remember that moment. I felt as if the back of my computer had fallen away. I bet I gasped. It was completely magical, the ultimate kids’ dream, to go somewhere and reach other people without physically traveling.
I was lucky to be working with people who were involved with the Internet and this entire field captured me. I left the law firm, became a law professor, and started OneWebDay. It’s been a labor of love and a cause for me, and I hope it will be useful to the world. It’s a platform for anyone to use.
Here is why I started OneWebDay. The internet is under pressure all over the world. There are gatekeepers who want to charge perfectly for each transmission watching carefully what we do online. The whole point of the language of the internet, the Internet Protocol, was to allow anyone to connect to networks (and thus to other networks) without asking permission. Explosive new applications got their start because of this language. But now there are many actors in a position to impede access and have things their way – in effect, the cellphone model of access (everything charged for, nothing done without permission) is destroying the internet model. There is a strong link between government surveillance and those gatekeeping efforts. The internet is not a broadcast, mass-medium idea, but it’s being morphed into that kind of activity.
I have been privileged to be a member of the Board of Directors of ICANN, and in that position I can see that there is a great desire on the part of governments and others to use the “plumbing” of the internet to carry out content-related censorship. I am deeply concerned about these efforts, and I continue to hope that ICANN will serve as a good steward for the rest of the world and for information flows, rather than as a chokepoint for control of internet content. For me, my work at ICANN connects deeply to the ideas that made me want to start OneWebDay.
I am also a musician, and the music of the internet is very important to me. I can see that people want to communicate more than almost anything else, as they communicate through music every day, and it is important to me that the communication of my fellow human beings isn’t interfered with by large forces beyond their control.
I have been privileged to serve as a law professor at some of my country’s great law schools – last term at Yale, and now as a member of the faculty of the University of Michigan – and I see the work that I do with students as part of this effort to encourage people who understand what the internet is to be involved in policymaking. I am proud to be affiliated with the Center for Democracy & Technology and the work that they do to encourage the free flow of information online.
All of this, for me, is of a piece. It is all connected to my desire to ensure that the internet is not taken for granted.
OneWebDay is yours, ours, not mine. Please use it in any way you like to raise consciousness about Internet policy issues, censorship, connectivity, digital divides – local issues you care about.