Waking up in the morning with an outside temperature of -5 is cold. When you go outside you have to wear scarf gloves hat and coat. In a cozy elevator ascending to the second floor a girl I know asked me if I knew about the anti-ACTA protest happening that same afternoon. I said no, she said that some people were going, obviously I went as well.
Around ten people left the building and reached the semi square in front of the headquarters of the Eureopean Parliament in Warsaw, ascending from the metro escalator we found more than 1-2000 people speaking and standing their disapproval toward an agreement that would negatively alter the internet by criminalizing content aggregators and shifting the role of censors from law enforcement institutions to ISPs.
Protesters were students, young professionals and internet activists. The gathering was adorned with banners rejecting ACTA and for protecting the internet, Polish flags and V for Vendetta masks. Despite the general idea of young protesters being almost inevitably violent, the weapons used were jumping rhytmically, expressing with words the disapproval for this law and standing under falling snow in a freezing afternoon.
What surprised me the most was not only the people that left the building with me – someone who you spend all day next to and don’t suspect that they would participate in such a gathering; but was protesting for the internet as a tool for the first time. To clarify, during the Arab revolutions the web was used as merely and organizational tool, without any second objective. This case is different, thousands of people stood up despite work, study and temperature to speak out to maintain the internet architecture as it is. The tool itself is the focus of protest, not merely a mean to overthrow a dictator or gain freedom. This “army” of internet users are now defending the internet, a metaphorical personification of a global tool.
I had been to conferences, talks, presentations workshops on protecting the open internet, but never in an organized protest, in the streets with thousands of people. It seems to be clear to many many people, even not internet activists, that the web is a basic human right and as such it must be protected, defended and spoke about. There was no main organizator of the protest, it was a spontaneous gathering achieved through social networks and word of mouth.
In Europe youngsters dont generally fight(ok maybe in Hungary) for freedom from violent dictators or the right to vote, the battlefield has shifted, what is of paramount importance now is to keep the flow of information free, open and unconserd. People will travel great lengths and sustain severe conditions in order to protect the things they care about, and it should now be clear to law makers that an uncensored internet doesnt only concern an elite of geeks but encompasses ever great chunks of the population.
Widespread revolts against censorship of the web(ACTA SOPA PIPA) shed a light on the future and importance of this tool in the everyday life of millions of people who have never studied computer science or software engineering – but who fear losing their most beloved services because of obsolete business plans and myopic content distribution licenses.
Pictures are from: http://warszawa.gazeta.pl/warszawa/51,34862,11024769.html?i=15
- Poles protest ACTA online and on the streets (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Poland: Government Will Sign ACTA Despite Massive Protest (advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org)
- Polish Web Sites To Go Dark To Protest ACTA (truthsupport.wordpress.com)