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The campaign for digital citizenship.

In the 1990s, users experienced the internet as a collaborative and creative space. Designers, artists, ideas entrepreneurs and digital 'gurus' became involved in what seemed like a limitless new world of possibilities. However, this era of possibility was not to last. Corporate, neoliberal and short-term interests began to challenge the freedoms of Cyberspace: a process of creeping colonisation now means that, increasingly, the platforms and interfaces in most widespread use are driven by profit not their users. A once-celebrated 'global village' (to co-opt Marshall McLuhan's problematic term) that promised to break down barriers between people and nations is becoming a corporate space of consumption, robbing users of the freedoms that internet users experienced in the 1990s. Our early experience of the internet as a radical space for social experimentation is in serious danger of becoming a distant memory.

Responding to this shift, a group of digital rights activists, creators and thinkers involved in the think-tank Cybersalon decided to campaign for the British government to introduce legislation that protects the rights of internet users and digital citizens online. The intention is to influence public debate about this threat to the potential that cyberspace seemed to offer in its earlier incarnations. (1)

Writing in 1999, Don Tapscott and Marc Prensky saw a generation gap between adults who began using the internet in the 1990s, whom they dubbed 'digital immigrants', and the group who were then growing up with the internet as a part of their lives--the 'digital natives'. (2) Over the last twenty years, however, the picture has changed. What began as a distributed network has become increasingly centralised: anyone can still set up a website or create a new application that runs on the internet, but for many the 'internet' is Facebook or the apps on their mobile phone. Today's 'digital natives' typically understand far less about what the internet can do than the digital pioneers that Tapscott dismissed as 'immigrants' who would never feel at home in cyberspace. New technologies--such as big data and data analytics, the Internet of Things, smart cities and machine learning--together with the ever-tightening restrictions of copyright law and censorship, threaten to disempower us even further, turning us all from digital citizens into technology consumers.

In February 2015 Cybersalon members wrote an open letter directly addressing today's so-called 'digital natives', addressing emerging issues around control, ownership and anti-creation in the digital sphere. We pledged to work to restore the use of the internet as a collaborative and creative space. (3) Digital citizenship was already in the public eye, after the publication of two reports discussing the UK's digital future: Make or Break: The UK's Digital Future, published by the House of Lords, and the Digital Democracy Commission report from Speaker of the House John Bercow. However, these reports focus on digital consumers rather than on citizenship and rights. We believe there is a need for a Digital Citizenship Bill. (4)

This article lays out the key challenges to the emancipatory possibilities of the internet and reviews three key areas of contention. First we engage with the concept of digital citizenship; secondly, we point to the necessity of copyright reform and look at examples of law changes in the US, UK and EU; and lastly we explore the new potential of Open and Big data.

Digital citizenship--context, background, and perception

In the early days of the internet, before broadband became available, it was common for online users to meet only strangers in online social spaces. Cyberspace therefore genuinely appeared to be a separate space, with its own community standards. The internet was rapidly taken up by digital pioneers, who hoped the internet would become a vector for education and democracy, and would also be resistant to censorship and accessible to all. In the early 1990s this group saw themselves as 'internet citizens', a term intended to convey the notion that everyone who used the internet had both the right and the responsibility to use and shape it.

This strong culture fought the earliest battles over censorship, free speech and strong cryptography, and felt they were a community--Netizens. In the USA in 1996, the passage of the Communications Decency Act as a rider to the Telecommunications Act led former Grateful Dead lyricist and Electronic Frontier Foundation founder John Perry Barlow to publish the Thomas Paine-inhuenced 'A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace', claiming that cyberspace should be self-governing. (5) 'You have no sovereignty where we gather', Barlow told governments. Although widely regarded as embarrassing hyperbole at the time, the Declaration nonetheless inspired later activists and writers.

Broadband, which began rolling out around 1999, made the internet a constant presence, aided by smartphones and the mobile internet. For today's children, the internet has always been wherever they are, offering instant access to their real-life friends, and 'cyberspace' is now often dismissed as a useless concept. Ironically, as the internet has grown, users' exploration has shrunk. Five years ago, to many people the internet was synonymous with the web. Today, for many users, the internet is Facebook and Google or smartphone apps, and too few websites grab most of their attention. (6) As the internet grew into a mass medium, the concept of 'Netizen' largely disappeared.

Legal struggles over defining the internet as a regulated space continued. In the US in 2010, a series of efforts to write an Internet Bill of Rights included proposals from Republican Congressional representative Darrell Issa; from the Obama administration, in the form of its 2012 proposed Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights; and from the 2010 Computers, Freedom, and Privacy (CFP) conference. Each was slightly different. The CFP Social Media Bill of Rights included data portability (between social media sites), the right to use multiple identities and pseudonyms, and the right to account deletion. (This was added after Cambridge researcher Joseph Bonneau's 2009 discovery that Facebook and six other tested sites retained 'deleted' photographs on their servers. (7)) Obama's attempt focused on reining in the commercial use of data, and--as, with Bercow and the House of Lords reports in the UK--conceived of users as consumers rather than citizens. Only Issa's draft attempted to fully translate the US Bill of Rights.

The right to anonymity, algorithmic transparency, and control over the distribution as well as ownership of personal data, are key issues of digital citizenship. Fundamental to all of these is the eponymy of the Internet Protocol (IP) address allocated by ISPs (Internet Service Provider). Although users may be able to use pseudonyms, the IP address of the network connection identifies them as clearly as using their real name, house address or national insurance number. At present, companies as well as governments worldwide can freely use data deriving from specific ISP addresses without the users' consent, knowledge or awareness. Although an EU directive compels websites to ask users for permission--i.e. to click--before they accept cookies, when people click there is little explanation of the actual use of the metadata that derives from their various activities, or how profits are extracted from that information. (8)

At the global level, there's no set treaty legislation to protect the rights of the internet user. There have been several attempts in national parliaments to introduce legal frameworks, but with mixed results. The World Wide Web Foundation and Tim Berners-Lee's Internet Magna Carta have been campaigning for an open and independent web for a long time. Italy's 2005 Internet Bill of Rights was inspired by Berners-Lee's Magna Carta, though it was criticised because it did not do enough to address every aspect of user internet privacy On the other hand it was also praised as coming from the first European parliament to actually address the issue. Although the bill addressed net neutrality and access to the internet as a fundamental right, and protects anonymity and encryption, it also allows data retention by ISPs and websites. And it's worth noting that the issue of copyright is barely touched upon, as it clashes with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which protects intellectual property as a fundamental right. Interestingly, to date the bill has not been implemented across Italy's internet industry--instead, it acts as an awareness-raising mechanism.

The Brazilian Congress passed its first Internet Bill of Rights into law in April 2015. Its most significant aspect is that it addresses user privacy protection: it requires ISPs to put systems in place to protect user information and activity online, and to seek user permission to sell any kind of personal data to companies, while also limiting the tracking and use of metadata. Renata Avila of the W3 Foundation commented: 'There is a lot to like about this Bill of Rights--it establishes access as a fundamental right, acknowledges the importance of the Internet to democracy, and puts open access to information, knowledge and culture at its heart'. The Cybersalon campaign wants the UK government to produce a bill along the same lines as those of Italy and Brazil--one that finally addresses the areas of data privacy, right to access and education and copyright reform.

The House of Lords Make or Break report covered a range of issues, from accessibility and digital inclusion to online safety, cybersecurity, mechanisation of work, surveillance and privacy. But the report seems to indicate that the UK government is putting companies first, ahead of the rights of the internet user. Though it takes into account and mentions the risks to social inclusion in a near completely digitised economy, it is very clear that consumer and business needs are prioritised, alongside calls for increased cybersecurity. Citizenship aspects are entirely overlooked. Risks to consumers posed by data sharing are raised, but there is no mention of the political problems that a 'big brother' society may introduce, for example through workplace use of sensory technology. (9) Location identification and personal profiling, which are not neutral actions and represent a fundamental shift in the relationship between citizen and government, are also not addressed in the report. Yet those impacted by the ubiquity of technology are producers and citizens as well as consumers.

Despite a wealth of detailed points on our digitised future, the report fails to highlight the unequal nature of our digital future, and it prioritises consumerism over all else. If these issues are not taken seriously and addressed by government, we will see exacerbated inequalities and intensified discrimination as the emphasis on consumerism continues, while disregarding citizenship and ethical practice. The Make or Break report indicates that society 'has become digitised', but presents this as a fatalistic end game, leaving no cracks for resistance, query or negotiation about the impact digitisation is having and will have on citizens.

Copyright reform

Balance commercial profit and public benefit. Keep the web free and open. Give me the tools I need to build the future I dream.

The Web We Want: An Open Letter

Changes to copyright law are a crucial part of any programme of reform. The changes in cultural production brought about by the internet and the deficiency of current copyright laws can be seen most vividly in the music industry. Ever since the days of Napster and dial-up connection, the way people collect and make music has radically changed. As early as 1998, when Ninja Tune conducted its first online concert jam, the internet has been seen as a venue for collaboration.

The collaborative nature of the internet is also easily seen in the development of free/libre and open source software (FLOSS). Much of programming practice is collaborative by nature, as programmers consult, copy, and modify existing code written by others. This is the way the GNU/Linux operating system was developed. The FLOSS movement advocated an open, evolutionary arena in which large groups of users could voluntarily explore and design code, spot bugs in code, make contributions to code, release software, create artwork, and develop licenses in what was becoming a rapidly monopolised software market. (10) These types of movements represented a trend toward a 'new mode of production emerging in the middle of the most advanced economies in the world'. (11) This 'ecology' of production poses a real threat to what we now see as dominant modes of corporate monopoly.

Copyleft is the most representative bottom-up movement that addresses problems in existing copyright law, and it was created as a direct response to the new, open mode of production and distribution of creative works. It rose out of the deficiency of existing copyright laws to address the collaborative way creative works are made and distributed online. Creative Commons Licensing, sharealike and General Public License stem from this movement. Launched in 2001 by Lawrence Lessig, the Creative Commons Licensing offers six types of licensing, which allow content creators to give parameters for the way their work can be used, reused, remixed and released by others. The Creative Commons License is to date the most effective response to the problem of finding new ways to release creative work online. The copyleft approach has been adopted worldwide by makers and producers who make and release creative works online. It uses existing copyright laws but nevertheless allows the copying and modifying of creative work. There have been numerous studies proving that existing copyright laws diminish cultural production rather than amplifying it. (12)

Creative practice cannot flourish under present legal frameworks. As Jessica Litman has said, if people really understood copyright law they would revolt. (13) Today, it is notoriously difficult to explain copyright laws to university students who have grown up in a world where one click downloads any kind of media object in digital format. Students are genuinely puzzled when told that this is illegal. As David Berry commented, responding to the UK's government 2005 campaign to raise awareness of copyright to young internet users: 'Nobody seems to have borne in mind that children learn by repetition and copying, and teaching "property" rights in this corporate-approved way is likely to undermine learning and education'. (14)

Existing copyright laws are a poor fit for the collaborative nature of creative practice, and present solutions, such as Digital Rights Management (DRM), confuse consumers. For example, downloading an ebook or song from i-tunes means that it cannot be copied, gifted or swapped, as is possible with their physical counterparts. It is evident that without copyright reform, the persistence of old copyright laws creates problems. In the EU, efforts to artificially recreate the physical constraints of the analogue era include geolocation, which blocks the delivery of video and audio streaming based on the receiver's geographical location, despite concerns that diasporic minority groups should have the right to access cultural content of their place of birth and thus preserve their cultural identity.

The issue of copyright reform must be addressed at a pan European level. So far, the EU and UK parliaments have been attempting to 'patch things up' rather than explore the new models of registering ownership that are emerging through initiatives such as copyleft. But there is a need for governments internationally to rethink copyright laws and focus on the new forms of licensing that are currently being shaped by users and creators. Furthermore, in the UK and EU parliaments, copyright reform policies are in constant contention. In the UK, in June 2015, in an effort to decriminalise the actions of millions of UK internet users, the court allowed a 'set of exceptions' in copying copyrighted material (mainly text and music) for limited private use and study for students and researchers. This modified somewhat the current EU directive, and caused a stir among 'rights holders', but at the same time it did not do enough to address the recycling and remixing of cultural production, and music in particular. And prior to this, the EU parliament had lengthened the term of copyright from fifty to seventy years with the 'term extension' act, which gave greater protection to 'rights holders' and disadvantaged cultural production.

The same online battles have been fought over and over again: rights holders continually seek favourable laws banning copying and are constantly responding to what are known as circumvention technologies. In the US, the term of copyright protection, after repeated extensions, in some cases now keeps new work locked up for nearly a century. The addition of new works to the public domain, where they become freely accessible for use, distribution and re-use, formerly an annual occurrence as older copyrights expired, has stalled.

The lost potential in releasing content copyright free can best be seen at Project Gutenberg. As part of the EU's move to digitise Europe's cultural heritage and make cultural context readily available to the public, Project Gutenberg makes freely available the text of public domain literary works. Each Gutenberg ebook states that, 'You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License'. In a similar spirit, some governments and organisations are moving to Open data, and the EU and UN have created search engines for Open data materials.

What is clear is that the old ways of generating profit from cultural work need to be reformed. The general consensus coming from campaigning communities is that artists and producers of creative digital works should be able to make a living out of their work and should also hold the right to decide how their work will be released, distributed, copied, shared and used by others. Equally, consumers should not be penalised for possessing readily available online content. It is evident that industries and governments worldwide are desperately trying to cling on to old copyright laws and modes of distribution and sales that are ineffective. The government needs to open a dialogue with artists and producers, and not just the rights holders, in order to update, rethink and address copyright reform and allow the new generation to benefit and produce culture for the new age.

In Cybersalon's campaigning work we have found that the main themes that emerge are: the need for copyright reform at EU level; the welcoming of Open access; the belief that publicly-funded works should be freely available for the public to use and reuse; the belief that digital ownership should bring the same rights of ownership as physical property; the desire to protect people's own original creative work; the need for the protection and attribution of original works; and need for reform of fair use.

As is evident from this, there is a degree of polarisation in current arguments over copyright reform. On the one hand, creators want to retain ownership of their work; on the other, future cultural production requires creative works to be readily accessible. Legislative bodies in the EU, UK, and elsewhere need to find a balance between these two interests. Cybersalon's view is that greater attention should be given to the views of authors, creators and artists than to rights holders, which tend to be large conglomerates. At the same time, access to cultural production should be made easier for consumers and practitioners, researchers and students.

It is for these reasons, among others, that there is a need to reframe copyright laws to focus on new modes of licensing; and there is also a need to open and sustain a dialogue between legislators and creators, giving less emphasis to rights holders and favouring the benefits of releasing rights-free works in the public domain.

Data: big, open, and personal

A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They'll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves, an unrecorded, unanalysed thought. And that's a problem because privacy matters, privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be.

Edward Snowden, Channel 4 Alternative Christmas Message 2013

The Snowden revelations did much to shake people's trust in the privacy of their online communications, as did revelations about data tracking for the purposes of behavioural advertising, and data leakage from smartphones. It's been proven that governments and military worldwide have access to, store and analyse our personal conversations and online activities. Furthermore, the public does not yet know how and under what conditions and processes their private data--age, gender, browsing history, status updates, clicks and likes--are turned into statistical data and 'audience commodities' that are bought and sold. In 2015, Zeynep Tufekci caused quite a lot of controversy when she asked Mark Zuckerberg if she could pay twenty cents to Facebook in order to preserve her privacy--responding to a claim that Facebook makes twenty cents per user per month. In response a New Yorker article claimed that 'Facebook Should Pay All of Us'. (15)

The artistic sector is raising the issues of surveillance and personal data ownership, including works such as Kill Your Phone--a pouch that stops the smartphone from receiving and emitting any kinds of data; CV Dazzle make-up camouflage to obstruct face detection; and a 3D-printed resin mask that tricks CCTV cameras and prevents face recognition software from recognising one's face. (16)

It may be helpful for this discussion to distinguish three areas of data: personal, big and open. These three types of data all overlap, but they are distinct from each other and have different requirements for use and protection. (17) Data that involves and identifies a particular individual is personal data. That includes the data that companies like Google and Facebook collect about each of their users--social graphs, searches, status updates as well as more obvious categories such as financial and medical data.

Open data, a growing trend among municipal and national governments, is data that belongs in the public domain and can be freely used and adapted by civilians, companies and government. Open data can take the form of data released by the government, such as census data; it can be generated by open data environmental sensors that measure indices such as air pollution; or can it take the form of the release by individuals and companies of data such as GPS coordinates or aggregated statistical data. What makes them 'open' is the conditions for use: they must be publicly available to be freely reused and shared.

While open data is generally welcomed by those interested in digital citizenship, there is concern about the abuse of the masses of personal data collected about us without our full understanding of what's being held or by whom. Behind the scenes on the web there is a huge ecosystem of third-party brokers, who track us on the web and trade the collected information in the interests of targeting us more precisely with advertising. (18)

Big data refers to giant datasets that computer algorithms analyse to find patterns that a human mind could not spot and that can then be used to make better decisions--about anything from medical treatment to city planning or commercial investment. The key to big data is 'big computing' and 'big storage'. The problem here is that details of the inner workings of the algorithms are typically kept secret, including those that, for example, analyse billions of passenger journeys to select individuals to put on the no-fly list, or decide whether or not a disabled person is fit for work. Similarly, exactly how Google's search algorithm decides what to place at the top of its results list is understood by only a small handful of people--and yet it determines what information 90 per cent of Europe's internet users find.

A further problem is that human law is often poorly transposed into computer code. (19) The result of these poor translations, especially when coupled with opaque algorithms, is the loss of public accountability and transparency, and disempowered individuals.

Today's younger generation, however, are growing up in a 'new normal' that teaches them that to be monitored is to be safer, and habituates them to using privacy-invasive technology designs. The 2010 documentary film Erasing David showed just how much detail is kept on all of us--and how much the Stasi would have envied modern investigators. (20) Bercow's 2015 report noted the changes we can expect as today's teenagers become eligible to vote and begin participating in politics. On a more positive note, Emma Mulqueeny has noted that growing up with social media has taught these kids--used to being the centre of their communities to expect to have a voice.

Open data is an area that is currently being developed: it is seen as part of governmental openness, and as having the potential to bring new solutions for citizen-centric services and approaches. But personal data ownership is still being denied by the major internet platforms. Big data will increasingly play a role in the choices we make every day, from product-pricing to train times. Here we are particularly concerned about the digital 'natives', who are increasingly unaware of the fact that large conglomerate companies are profiting from access to their personal data, online habits, patterns, preferences, etc.

In campaigning for a UK digital citizen's bill of rights, Cybersalon's goal is to spread the kind of digital literacy that is being lost, and to change the public discourse surrounding the internet, which to date has pitted interest groups against each other without ever establishing principles against which the impact of decisions could be measured. Ultimately, the group hopes to shape legislation that will effect permanent change, a difficult task given the political climate of the day


Cybersalon continues with its campaign. In January 2016 we submitted a draft digital citizenship bill of rights to the UK parliament. We are currently looking into the kind of online system of contribution that needs to be developed to ensure wide participation. In March 2016 we are running our second People's Parliament event, and in September 2016 a final proposal will be taken to Parliament.

We end with a call for action. Whether buying a ticket online or posting pictures of your children, you are not protected as a user. The internet user has no agency in the way personal data are used, stored, bought and sold. The time to act is now: algorithmic transparency, personal data privacy and the right to digital education and internet access are currently at the forefront of discourses surrounding internet freedoms. We are experiencing the digital age in its beginnings, and we have a responsibility to shape our digitised future. Our activities online must not be governed by fear of surveillance and control. The web and internet have brought news ways of collaborating and creating: these should be celebrated and enhanced rather than closed down through old-fashioned modes of distribution and sales. As an internet user, you have a citizen's responsibility to participate in the shaping of the future of the digital age.

It is time we had a digital bill of rights.

Sophia Drakopoulou is a Senior Lecturer in Media, Culture and Communication at Middlesex University. Her research explores networked technologies, the city and everyday life. Sophia is a founding member since 1998 of Cybersalon (www, a think tank on networked cultures and a real and virtual space where people involved in digital creativity can congregate. Wendy M. Grossman is a freelance writer specialising in the Internet and related technologies. She is author of net.wars (NYU Press 1998) and From Anarchy to Power: the Net Comes of Age (NYU 2001); her website is: Phoebe Moore lectures in International Politics at Middlesex University and researches in the areas of technology, global governance and production. Her recent publications include 'The Quantified Self: What counts in the neoliberal workplace', New Media and Society (2015), co-authored with Andrew Robinson; and 'Legitimacy, Tribridity, and Decent Work Deficits' in Globalizations (2014). Phoebe has been involved with Cybersalon since 2014 as a speaker and commentator at events at Digitas and at the House of Commons.


(1.) Cybersalon is a collective of individuals from many sectors--practitioners, academics, artists, techies, journalists and students--who are passionate about digital culture and the present and future of the internet. We have been putting on events in London since 1999, with the intention of informing audiences about cutting-edge discourses surrounding technology, digital creativity and critical analysis of trends and practice, both online and off.

(2.) Don Tapscott, Growing up Digital, McGraw-Hill 1999: http://dontapscott. com/books; Marc Prensky, Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, 2001: www.,%20Digital%20 Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf.

(3.) In March 2015, when the letter came to the attention of two MPs--newly installed Labour party deputy leader Tom Watson and shadow chancellor John McDonnell--they invited Cybersalon to run an event at the House of Commons as part of the People's Parliament programme.

(4.) See

(5.) Available at

(6.) See for example:

(7.) Joseph Bonneau, 'Attack of the Zombie Photos', 5 May 2009: https://www.

(8.) See European Directive 2002/58/EC, adopted by all EU countries in May 2011. The Directive gave individuals rights to refuse the use of cookies. In the UK this meant an update to the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations. See

(9.) Phoebe Moore and Andrew Robinson, 'The Quantified Self: What counts in the neoliberal workplace', New Media and Society 2015.

(10.) Phoebe Moore, 'Subjectivity in the ecologies of peer to peer production', FibreCulture 17 2011: pdf.

(11.) Yochai Benkler, Wealth of Networks, Yale University Press 2006.

(12.) Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law University of Cambridge, Review of the Economic Evidence Relating to an Extension of the Term of Copyright in Sound Recordings.

(13.) Jessica Litman, Digital Copyright, Prometheus Books 2001.

(14.) David M. Berry, Copy, Rip, Burn: The Politics of Copyleft and Open Source, Pluto 2008.

(15.) Zeynep Tufekci, 'Mark Zuckerberg, Let Me Pay for Facebook', New York Times, 4 June 2005:; business/currency/facebook-should-pay-all-of-us.

(16.) See;; and Leo Selvaggio:

(17.) As shown in this diagram:

(18.) See for example this graphic from All Things D: http://allthingsd. com/20100927/how-to-find-googles-next-ad-tech-acquisition/.

(19.) Danielle Keats Citron, 'Technological Due Process', Washington University Law Review, Vol. 85, 2007: id=1012360.

(20.) The movie's website is Grossman's review: www.
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Author:Drakopoulou, Sophia; Grossman, Wendy; Moore, Phoebe
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 22, 2016
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