Apr 202011
Authors: Ryan Gibbons and Glen Pfeiffer

In case you haven’t been informed, the monthly meeting of the cool kids on campus is being held today in the brand new Behavioral Sciences Building, Room 131. If you have any interest in keeping your BAMF status, you should probably be there (reading our column can only do so much for your street cred).

Mr. John Perry Barlow will be in Room 131 to give a talk on the awesomeness that is the interwebs –– or as he called it “cyberspace.”

Honestly, you spend hours on the Internet everyday, so why not come educate yourself a little on what issues it faces? We’re referring to things like net neutrality, privacy and intellectual property to name a few.

Barlow would seem an unlikely champion of the Internet. He was born in Wyoming and went to school in Colorado. In fact, his high-school friendship with founding member of the Grateful Dead, Bob Weir, eventually led to a gig writing for the band in 1971.

After his stint as a full-time deadhead, Barlow opted to spend his time working in the advocacy business, so he co-founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), his first of many movements for Internet and electronic freedom.

The organization was founded in 1990 with two other individuals and is still very active today. The group works on keeping today’s technology industry honest and fights for the everyday user (like “Tron,” but less neon).

A lot of their work focuses on providing legal assistance to the underdog in lawsuits where the government and/or telecom companies are stepping on the little guy.

Another focus is helping the public stay educated about its rights when it comes to the Internet. (Think data privacy).

When the U.S. passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the first major set of laws passed by our government that attempted some level of regulation of the Internet, Barlow sprang into action and published the Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace.

The document harks back to one of the primary political philosophies of the past few centuries –– that governmental power is derived from the consent of the governed. Barlow argued that users of the Internet had not consented to be governed by any country, and that its borders lie outside the realm of any physical governments jurisdiction.

Over 40,000 websites had reposted the writing within nine months (that was a lot of websites back in 1996), and it kind of makes us feel like starting a website just to help out the cause.
Anyone who, like us, is a fan of the (mostly) open Internet culture we enjoy today should be a fan of Barlow’s work.

The lecture is hosted by the Department of Journalism and Technical Communication as part of the Holmes distinguished lecture series but everyone is welcome. So join us at 3:30 p.m. to hear Barlow tell us about “The Right to Know.”

Columnists Ryan Gibbons and Glen Pfeiffer will be signing autographs after the lecture. Send comments and questions to verve@collegian.com.

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