The Mozilla project is in a unique position to
As the governments of the world respond to the challenges the Internet presents, they are faced with a number of complications to making sensible laws which protect the Open Internet and everything it supports: the education, economic growth, social connections, scientific collaboration, international media and communications, and more.
As examples, governments are currently challenged by:
- jurisdictional mismatches (the Internet is global, but parts of the infrastructure — and the people who use it — live in specific countries with specific laws)
- the imperfect process of mapping offline laws to the online world
- special interests that work to protect the status quo in ways which may damage the Open Internet or work against our Manifesto
- a lack of skills and resources in governments to keep them abreast of the technology, behaviors and societies about which they are making decisions.
We at Mozilla are in a unique position to help. We can be a non-partisan resource to put some focus to the conversations — both within governments and across our diverse community. As a Silicon Valley tech giant, an active community of thousands of contributors and millions of users across the world, and as a non-profit, we can be convenors, authorities, and representatives across each of those areas.
Most importantly, this work should help us realize the vision in our Manifesto. The openness, security, interoperability and trust that underpin our view of the Internet as a public good as well as for commercial aspects of life — these will be most successful as collaborations between the tech community who builds them and the governments who can encourage and protect them.
- With a few key exceptions, we are relatively new to policy and governmental conversations. Focusing on a few public policy priorities will help us extend our impact, across international governments and using the breadth of the Mozilla community.
Possible policy priorities for 2013-4 - Net neutrality - Privacy and user data - An uncensored internet - Fair and open internet governance - Copyright and intellectual property These priorities should be developed collaboratively across the entire community, and should map directly to what we have stated in our Mission, our Manifesto and our values.
- We are experts in many areas, but our activities are highly distributed. We cluster around topics, around modules of code, and in specific countries/jurisdictions — while crossovers may be missed. We could be applying our expertise and evidence in a more powerful way, to cover more policy areas and geographical regions. A more unified approach will help us do this.
- We are a community of leaders and do-ers, many of whom want to help governments to support the Open Internet. The clearer we are about our priorities, our expertise and where we can help, the more we can empower our community to support our activities. Similarly, we lower the risk of alienating existing Mozillians when we are clear about where our priorities lie, when we engage, and how we manage our interactions with governments.
We have a number of tools we can use to engage with and support the lawmaking and treaty-making processes. Among the possibilities:
- We can identify leaders, established and respected in their fields, to represent us in countries or topics where we lack resources. See Open Web Policy Leaders.
- We can encourage our community to participate directly, either by helping them understand where to participate or by signposting to campaigns organized by activist organizations around our policy priorities. See Helping the community to engage.
- We can convene the relevant players from the tech sector, non-profits and key governments to collaborate on our policy priorities. We can publicly celebrate progress in these areas, encouraging the political and legislative behavior we support. See the Internet Policy Summit.
- We can produce a yearly Health of the Open Web report to assess and call attention to the openness and interoperability of the tools and infrastructure.
- We can prepare evidence, responses to government consultations, Congressional or Parliamentary testimony or evidence, amicus briefs, etc. around our policy priority areas.
- We can extend this strategy to support and protect our existing activities. If we build a list mapping features/code modules to policy areas, we can adjust our involvement in policy discussions to make sure we are putting our resources to the most effective use.
- We can demonstrate our leadership and conviction in our policy priorities by building code features that exemplify them. We can also model and encourage the kind of Internet governance we want by our participation in open and fair standards bodies, and engaging in working groups that impact our policy priorities.
Evidence and expertise
Many policy-making discussions are actively seeking (or needing) evidence about user behavior or technical expertise on the Web or Internet infrastructure. This is another area where we can help.
- ISPM: We are beginning to build a collection of explanatory strategies, well-chosen metaphors and appropriate supporting presentational material to be a technical resource for lawmakers and their staff.
- We should use our coding/technical activities to demonstrate the feasibility and impact of our policy priorities. For example, we can use Collusion and the Cookie Clearinghouse as an evidence base for policy discussions around privacy and user data. See building policy evidence.