The Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship was the topic of discussion in my new media class yesterday.  But one of the things that seems missing from this list is digital advocacy, which is the way I would describe the responsibility of educated users of digital media to keep abreast of and advocate against commercial and federal interests’ attempts to limit free speech, creativity, and (our remaining modicum of) privacy on the internet.

Some might say that digital advocacy falls under the domain of media literacy, but it seems also to fit naturally in any discussion of what it means to be a citizen of the ether.   Just as citizens of FTF communities are obligated to maintain regional freedom, justice, and privacy with their vote and political engagement, digital citizens are obligated to use their voices to maintain the same in our virtual or “second” lives.

This is easy enough to do through the proliferation of online organizations that serve as watchdogs and advocacy centers.  Last year, such digital advocacy groups groups successfully opposed, through massive social networking campaigns, SOPA and PIPA legislation that would have permitted censorship and government and corporate control of the internet.

Currently new legislation, CISPA (Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011, HR 3523), is the latest effort of this ilk. Section 2.1 of the bill  describes its purpose plainly:

IN GENERAL- The Director of National Intelligence shall establish procedures to allow elements of the intelligence community to share cyber threat intelligence with private-sector entities and to encourage the sharing of such intelligence.

Yes, imagine Facebook and the CIA working in unison, not such a far cry iif one considers that Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg,  has recently thrown in with the CISPA camp. This spoof by the Onion hits a little too close to home:

The new legislation is too loosely written, permitting violations of Americans’ civil liberties under the auspices of cybersecurity, as  the Electronic Frontier Foundation explains:

Congress is considering legislation that would create backdoor wiretaps into our daily communications. These “cybersecurity” bills would give companies a free pass to monitor and collect communications, including huge amounts of personal data like your text messages and emails. Companies could ship that data wholesale to the government or anyone else provided they claim it was for “cybersecurity purposes.”

Like the doublespeak used by SOPA and PIPA advocates to claim that those laws would stop internet piracy (SOPA) and protect intellectual property (PIPA), promoters of CISPA claim that the bill ”respects privacy and civil liberties, is not about surveillance, is targeted at actions by foreign states, and is nothing like SOPA.”  Meanwhile, CISPA, like SOPA and PIPA before it, is written in such broad language that it simultaneously legalizes egregious violations of US citizens’ civil liberties.

If the Occupy Wall Street movement has made one thing clear, it is the way that private interests direct the legislation and governance of our nation.  Corporations will not stop lobbying lawmakers to configure the internet for the former’s benefit until they have been satisfied, which means if not SOPA or PIPA or CISPA, other legislation will soon follow.  Therefore, digital citizens need to find a way to keep their finger always on the pulse of what is happening in Washington.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation is a great source for keeping abreast of this news.  I only wish they had a Facebook connect button on their site :) .

Write your congressperson to oppose CISPA and other similar legislation by clicking here.

*”Keeping the Internet Open Innovative and Free” is the motto of the Center for Democracy and Technology


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