Internet Experts, Advocates, Celebrate OneWebDay

In cities around the globe, people gathered to celebrate the Internet Monday. In New York, advocates stressed the importance of using it as a tool for building social and political movements.

K.C. Jones, Contributor

September 23, 2008

2 Min Read

Internet entrepreneurs, activists, enthusiasts, and policy advocates met Monday in cities around the globe to celebrate the Internet.

People worldwide organized and announced their events through the OneWebDay Web site.

About 50 Internet users and advocates gathered around a stage under a clear blue sky in Washington Square Park in New York City to hear speakers, including: Stanford Law professor Lawrence Lessig, Craigslist founder and customer service representative Craig Newmark, Electronic Frontier Foundation founder and former Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow, and S.J. Klein, One Laptop Per Child's community content director.

Susan Crawford, a law professor specializing in Internet issues at the University of Michigan, said she modeled OneWebDay after Earth Day.

"In 1969, one man asked the people to do what their elected representatives would not: take the future of the environment in their own hands," she said. "Peoples' lives now are dependent on the Internet as they are on basics like roads, energy supplies, and running water. We can no longer take that for granted and we must advocate for the Internet politically, and support its vitality personally."

Crawford said that Internet users should work toward high-speed access and minimal surveillance.

The afternoon gathering, near New York University in Manhattan, followed a morning meeting at City Hall.

New York City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, who leads a technology committee, talked about extending broadband access to residents who can't afford it. She said that in some parts of the Bronx, broadband connectivity could allow surveillance and solve security problems while bringing more opportunities to residents.

Other speakers, including Lessig and Harvard Law School professor and cyberlaw expert Jonathan Zittrain, reflected on the theme of this year's gathering -- online participation in democracy -- by stressing the importance of maintaining the Internet as a tool for building social and political movements.

"We need to take some ownership of this collective hallucination we call the Internet," Zittrain said.

He urged artists to try to learn code and candidates to learn the basics of Internet technology.

Barlow said the Internet gives people the right to speak, listen, and learn.

Lessig pointed to current events like the economic crisis and the U.S. presidential race and said it's time that people use the virtual world to change the real world.

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