Comments to a New Digital Manifesto...

 

that claims crucial rights, including some we already have.

There is online a New Digital Manifesto, that declares “our inalienable rights within the digital age”. Everybody can email questions, comments, and criticism to its author. I share my own first impressions and comments here, instead, hoping to stimulate even more productive discussion.

Two main, general comments

  1. First of all, this Manifesto declares the right of “users”. This raises in me the same instinctive reaction I have whenever I hear of “consumer” rights. I acknowledge that sometimes there is a reason for certain qualifications, but in context like this, I’d really rather talk of people, not “users”.
  2. Another general issue I have with declarations of this kind (see my comments to DiEM25’ Green Paper on Technological Sovereignty for comparison) is that I often struggle to see the need for a different or separate, specific declaration of rights “for internet users” or “in cyberspace” or generally “digital”, instead of just reasserting that some rights that we already have also apply in digital contexts. Playing devil’s advocate, isn’t claiming to have some rights online an implicit declaration that you do not have them as a “plain” human being, offline?

In the rest of this post, my own comments are in italic.

The Right to Communicate

Users and communities have the right to communicate with one another, both publicly and privately.

see #1 and #2 above

Users have the right to publicly publish information and content, even if it is not directed at a specific person or recipient. By extension, users also have the right to access publicly published information and content.

see #1 and #2 above. Maybe it is thing like geoblocking that should be explicitly declared illegal, REGARDLESS of the technology they use?

The Right to Filter

Users have the right to subvert software and platform restrictions that would force them to consume content that they do not wish to see, and to teach other people how to subvert these restrictions.

OK. But if some restrictions are wrong, wouldn’t the right and most logical thing to ask for be something like “platform owners CANNOT force users to consume content they do not wish to see and must give them ways to skip such content, PERIOD”?

(To see what I mean, replace “users” with “women”, “software and platform restrictions” with “men’s actions” and “consume content” with “unwanted sex”. Of course women must have that right, but before that, the law must say that people or companies have NO right to harass others.)

The Right to Remember

Users have the right to archive and index information online. Users have the right to share information with others…

First, see #2 above: Why “online”? Regardless of tech, this could not work without tons of restrictions. Even child porn is “information”.

Users have the right to break or circumvent geoblocks, DRM…

See the comment above about software and platform restrictions. If geoblocks or DRM prevent me from doing something legal, the police must shut down those systems, not graciously allow me to break them. If they are doing something illegal, of course I already have the right to ignore them. What has “digital” have to do with this?

The Right to Hide

Users have the right to take measures that hide their identity online and in real-life. Users have the right to form multiple identities, and to choose which identities they want to use to communicate, transact, publish, or consume content.

YES!. But:

When people or platforms attempt to obtain personal information from a user… users have the right to lie…

excuse me if I am thick, but again: why state my right to avoid injustice, before, or instead, demanding that platforms cannot refuse anonymous, or pseudonymous subscriptions?

The Right to Modify

I agree with everything written in this section, but.. what’s wrong with the current “Right To Repair” movement? Why and how is the content of this section different enough from Right To Repair” to warrant a different name, and above all separate campaigns to demand it? Isn’t doing so an unnecessary dispersion of efforts?

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