cr> CRISIS in cyber-rights (PLEASE READ)


Richard Moore

Dear Cyber Rights,

        As a follow-up to my posting ("Re: "*hot* Internet issues"), I sent
the following message to the cyber-rights co-leader group:

Hi guys,

I'm very concerned about the current status of the cyber-rights effort.

First, let me say I know everyone of you is sincere, is working hard, is
getting very little appreciation, and is making contributions in different
ways.  But as I look at the current state of affairs as objectively as I
can, I see some serious fundamental problems...

The list has become mainly a clipping service, with a trickle of comments
back from readers, and no developing threads of any consequence.

The co-leaders list, which was set up as a coordination channel to
facilitate the effectiveness of the list, seems to be turning into a list
in its own right, with debate of arcane issues, lots of forwards that
belong on a bigger list if they belong anywhere, and almost no attention to
its mission.

The original purpose of cyber-rights was to be a Campaign -- to build a
constituency both on and off the net that understands the democracy-aspect
of the cyberspace future, and could then support a demand for traditional
civil liberties and rights in that new domain.

We failed to build such a constituency -- as did everyone else -- and we
are now backed into the corner of appealing to the courts to uphold a bare
minimum of free speech, a mere fragment of the broader rights that have
concerned us on the list.  Meanwhile, as far as constituencies are
concerned, the main event has been the Time CyberPorn article and the
mobilization of the CC -- the only observable "grassroots movements" (off
net) seem to be in the enemy camp.

Now finally there are the stirrings of unrest out in the real world, and
the conditions for constituency-building seem to be at hand.  With the ACLU
suit, we see all kinds of credible groups joining in, and that's very
encouraging.  Similarly, we see new groups and alliances taking a position
on the economic ramifications of the Deform Bill, and I've proposed that as
a focus for some effective campaigning by cyber-rights.

Just as the publication of the Magna Carta helped spark cyber-rights in the
first place, the passage of the Deform Bill seems to have sparked the very
constituency we've been seeking.  Sometimes enemy actions are what a
movement needs, unfortuantely.

I encourage you take these concerns seriously, and I ask you as co-leaders
if you are willing to take some time to discuss a strategy for the list in
this time of crisis -- a time of both both danger and opportunity.  If we
identify a workable agenda, we can find support -- build it and they will


        There were three responses to the "re: *hot* issues" posting, all
positive, from Jason Wehling, David Heck, and "Off the Edge" (whoever that
might be).  I found the small number of responses discouraging, but was
encouraged that no opposition was expressed on the list.

        As a point of history, the cyber-rights list was set up explicitly
to be an effective campaign -- and the original membership had a clear
consensus that we did _not_ want "yet another" discussion list.  Cyber
Rights then became a "Working Group" of CPSR -- not a "Discussion Group".
We've obviously drifted from our mission, and fallen into the trap of doing
what is easiest, instead of what is needed.

        Perhaps you, as a group, are happy with how cyber-rights has
evolved -- perhaps the original mission has become irrelevant and
non-binding.  If so, I'd like to know that, and I'll seek other avenenues
to pursue the coalitions that seem to be where the real cyber rights
opportunties are today.

        But I hope that's not the case, and I urge those of you who are
more than lurkers to send in your thoughts.  You don't need to offer any
earth-shaking proposals, simply express your views on whether or not
cyber-rights should seek to re-dedicate itself to its original mission.
And if a rededicated list is something you could make a more substantial
contribution to, I'd like to know that as well.

In Solidarity,