Net neutrality struggle and new movements in the digital era
Ismael Peña-López (chair), Txarlie (Hacktivistas.net), Carlos Sánchez Almeida (Bufet Almeida), Gala Pin (X.net)
Hacktivism works as a free software project: it collects information, documents the processes and implements actions. The idea is avoiding reinventing the wheel but implementing the same ideas and processes in other social projects — in this specific case, the Spanish Ley Sinde.
Each revolution has its tool. The Protestant Reformation cannot be understood without the printing press, the soviet revolution without fliers and posters, and the 1960s protests without the television.
The Internet is thus the tool of the 15M movement, and not only the Internet as a device, but also as a philosophy, as an architecture, with distributed power, policentric. Indeed, the 15M movement is not a protest without leadership, but, on the contrary, it is a protest with multiple leaders, more leaders than ever.
When it comes to Net Neutrality, the idea is do not wait until the Net is not neutral, but to actually prevent its enclosure. And there is indeed an urgent need to digitally empower people, so that there is no need to prevent the stealing of liberties, freedom instead of having to recover it.
Facebook is becoming less of a social networking site, of a democracy site, and more of a shopping mall. That is why activists are constantly moving from one platform to another one. This is not happening, though, with Twitter, that is keeping its horizontal, totally flat essence.
It is interesting to stress the fact that often people use some applications for their own purposes, and purposes that were not foreseen by the owners. And sometimes these new usages do confront the current law and thus the owner of the tool either takes sides with the activists or against them, but can no more remain neutral.
It is not a crisis, it is the system. The only difference is that we are now better informed on what is happening. Let us, so, take the chance to make an informed change.
Carlos Sanchez Almeida
Sometimes it is possible to define common rules for a collective, but sometimes it is not. And sometimes it is the very design of a system the one that has its own rules embedded in its architecture. That is happening on the Internet, that was designed in a way that included its functioning rules.
When a new territory is conquered, the first thing is imposing one’s will, the second one is to try and justify it morally, and last comes the making of rules to accommodate the new reality. The conquest of (or attempt to conquer) the Internet is no different in its aims… even if we have not yet gone through the first stage.
But as the Internet is resisting the siege, the power is trying to come through the back door and impose new rules. But the way these rules are legitimated is through media and by changing people’s minds. Thus, the centre of the power are media. What tools do we have to achieve that?
The problem with the Internet is that there are as many tools as initiatives, and as much initiatives as people.
What happened with the Spanish Ley Sinde is that it indirectly and unwillingly contributed in clustering all the different initiatives fighting for different liberties, ending up in a unique voice that colluded against the attack to social rights.
Once out of the narrowness of Internet-focussed fights, it is now the time for the assault to the very fundamentals of power: money and the media.
The attacks against the Internet are not attacks against a technology, but against civil liberties like the freedom of expression, the freedom of thought, etc.
On the other hand, promoting the changes that the new technologies now enable does not necessarily goes against some private interests (e.g. the artists’). On the contrary, it quite often defends those interests, although most times requires a redefinition of how things are made.
Hacking is another type of civil disobedience, and especially effective one in this new territory that is the Internet. Hacking plus collective intelligence is certainly a very powerful combination to resist the attacks to the Net.
Carlos Sánchez Almeida: there is a high probability that cybercrime will increasingly be on the papers, as it will be the alibi that the power will use to be able to be “legitimate” in attacking the Internet. The first aggression will be against the place where we met to prepare our revolutions.
Q: on the one hand we picture the power as a very smart institution and, on the other hand, we also picture the power as completely clueless. Isn’t that a contradiction? Txarlie: it’s probably both. It is true that the power understands the Internet as a whole, looking at its possibilities and the powers it challenges; but it is also true that its forms are mostly unknown, partly because the Net is so flexible that it is very difficult to predict in its next action. The collective intelligence moves in the boundaries and thus circumvents the power. The power understands its potential, but not its boundaries. Carlos Sánchez Almeida: one of the reasons the governments have attacked P2P networks — when they kept people quite and numb at home — is because they are not the ones in power: the power is financial and the corporations (who own what is exchanged in P2P networks).
Q: so, what’s the next step? Carlos Sánchez Almeida: we need a democracy; a new and reformed one, but a democracy. And this new democracy must be more transparent and, over all, more accountable. In the case of Spain, bipartidism should be broken by voting the smaller parties.
Mayo Fuster: why has not the 15M and other activisms taken more into account the tradition of the commons, of cooperatives, etc.? Txarlie: partly this has been due to the fact that it was preferable to begin from scratch, to avoid predefined mindsets, to promote trial and error, to experiment. The idea was that any solution had to come from the debate within the 15M itself to be legitimate.
Mayo Fuster: what is going to happen after the 15M with the Internet? will it become a 11S of the Internet? Gala Pin: We are living a dire crisis while which there has been poor or any proposal at all to improve people’s lives. The 15M has been, in many ways, the only thing that has happened to directly address the crisis. Thus, it is not a only movement of protest, but the expression of a general feeling of a real need of change.
Mayo Fuster: how does power works inside the 15M? Carlos Sánchez Almeida: there is no power in the 15M movement, the power is outside. The 15M is a network of networks, with their own programme, working autonomously. Thus, there is no such thing as power in the 15M movement, which is but a mere platform. The Indignants Movement cannot be defined in terms of power, of structure, of hierarchy. The movement must not provide answers, but communication channels, build agorae where debate can take place.
Civil Society and Politics transformation in the Internet Age (2011)
If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:
Peña-López, I. (2011) “Communication and Civil Society (IV). Net neutrality struggle and new movements in the digital era (II)” In ICTlogy,
#97, October 2011. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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