War for the Web
28 03.13

Battlefield Internet

We often get asked, what is War for the Web about. We have a really good elevator pitch down about the physical infrastructure of the Internet, and the way that ownership works, etc… We can rattle it off no problem.

And those are all great descriptions of the film, but they aren’t what the film is about.

The film is about our rights and our liberties. This film is about the fundamental question of what does being American mean online? This film is to pose the question, Do you want a say in your future?

Because we take certain things for granted as Americans. We believe that we can say what we want, own what we own, and be who we want to be. You can see this over the battle for gay marriage, and the right to own a gun. We express ourselves as we want, when we want and to who we want and we take that for granted as part of the American experience.

But that isn’t true online, despite what we may think. In fact, there’s a pitched battle going on right now online over what rights we have. There are really three sides in this fight. The first side is the government, which wants the right to spy on you whenever it wants without a court order. They want to see what you email in real time, and they want to know where you are based on your phone and Internet data so that if you break the law, they can stop you quickly. The government also wants the right to unleash viruses and malware on its enemies, regardless of the damage it does to civilians both in the United States and elsewhere. The government wants the right to change the Internet to make it easier to defend, and to make it easier to defend US law online.

On another side in this debate we have major corporate interests. Some of these are easy to define. Hollywood has a really strong interest in protecting intellectual property. Cable has a really strong interest in controlling how you access content and making you pay as much as the market will bear for Internet and TV access. Some of these corporate interests are fuzzier. Advertisers want the ability to track you, to see what you see and what you buy so that they can market to you more effectively. They want to know where you are at every moment of the day so they can target you with adds in real time.

The point is, neither of these entities have your interests at heart. Neither of them are interested in preserving your ability to access what you take for granted on the Internet. Facebook isn’t interested in making sure that you can always talk to your friends and they have no obligation to you. Google isn’t interested in giving you unbiased search results or providing you with free email, except where it serves their interests.

Both of these groups are trying to define the rules of the game. The Internet is young, its rules aren’t totally codified. These groups want to make sure that when the rules firm up, they come out on top. So they’re battling, they’re battling in courtrooms, state assemblies, and corporate boardrooms everywhere. They’re deciding YOUR fate, yours and mine, behind closed doors. There have been a couple attempts to drag this war into the light. There were the protests against SOPA, and PIPA, and now CISPA. There have been Internet pioneers shouting about it to the rafters. There have been conferences about it and books written to discuss it. And yet we’re losing ground.

After “What is this film about” the second question we get asked is why are we making it. The answer is simple. We’re making this film because we believe that this is far to important a controversy to ignore. This isn’t one where we can say, “someone else will take care of this for me.” We don’t have that luxury.

Americans have forgotten that their government is there to serve them. Americans have forgotten that we, as a people, have incredible power to fight the institutions that aren’t working in our interests. The Internet is an incredible tool for all of us, and we must speak up if we want to help define how it works. These rules are being written now, we cannot be silent.


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