EFF, to celebrate its 15th anniversary [EFF15], is asking folks this week to blog about their their “click moments” — as they put it, “the very first step you to took to stand up for your digital rights.” This is a hard question to answer for me. I've done a variety of things over the years that count as online activism, but it's difficult, thinking about it, to separate that stuff from my day job. After all, I'm an academic. I get paid to sit around and figure out what I think is correct and say so. It's my job to speak truth to power (and anyone else).
But I remember my first contact with EFF. It came in the form of the September 1991 EFFECTOR, EFF's newsletter (it was printed on dead trees at the time), and it contained this summary by Esther Dyson of EFF's basic message: “There's a new world coming. Let's make sure it has rules we can live with.” I scissored out the membership form on the back and sent it in with my $40 — and I started reading what EFF had to say.
I drew on that stuff in a column I sent out two years later to the law-professor members of the American Association of Law Schools Mass Communications Law section. Parts of it are funny reading now. One of the things I said was that while we “hear a lot about electronic home shopping … I think I'd be perfectly happy living the rest of my life without” it. Little did I know.
Some of the rest of it, though, was on target. My point was that in building the information superhighway, we needed to develop a switched network in which anybody could become a content provider — not some monopoly content provider giving you 500 channels and interactive shopping, not any one-way system with a fixed number of channels, but a two-way, switched, many-to-many communications infrastructure that looked like the Internet. A system like that, I wrote, “could transform the nature of mass communications.”
This is my last post as a guest blogger here — Michael should be coming back tomorrow. Thanks for putting up with me. I had a great time.