Reddit Proposes Crowd-Sourced Internet Censorship Law
The message board Reddit has released the first draft of a crowd-sourced bill to protect internet freedom.
The 'act' is intended as an alternative to the anti-piracy bills SOPA and PIPA, which were recently dropped in the US House of Representatives after widespread online protest.
Based on an anti-censorship and self-governing philosophy, the 15-page Free Internet Act (FIA) has been drafted collectively, ahead of an April 1 deadline to submit bills to the European Commission.
While not yet in a final form, it's been uploaded to Google Docs for input before it is sent to "law experts" for another drafting.
The members of the FIA message board say it is an attempt to "promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation by preventing the restriction of liberty and preventing the means of censorship".
The bill states that governments will not impose censorship except in the case of child pornography and financial fraud.
Reddit came under intense criticism recently for initially refusing to ban sexualised images of children, which were openly shared by its users.
The website says that it stringently supports legal freedom of speech, even regarding material that its individual operators consider distasteful but not technically unlawful.
Reddit's statement of aims says: "FIA will allow internet users to browse freely without any means of censorship, users have the right to free speech and to free knowledge; we govern the content of the internet, governments don't."
It also includes provisions to place the sole blame for copyright infringement and other illegal activity on those who upload data, instead of those who download it.
The act in its current form states: " A user shall bear no liability for the download of data that was made available by an illegal act of upload. It must be assumed that a user does not have certain knowledge that the data in question was uploaded illegally."
The intention is to make it impossible for internet users to accidentally commit a crime by downloading illegal material.
Reddit's users describe the document as the start of a potential international treaty, which would be adopted not just in the EU or United States but universally.
The first step on its journey into either law, obscurity or somewhere in between, will take place in the EU via the European Citizens' Initiative, by which EU citizens can "participate directly in the development of EU policies" by voting on acts submitted by non-politicians.
A citizens' initiative needs the backing of a million people from at least seven out of the 27 member states to then get the chance to present the idea to the European Parliament.
Theoretically, some form of the bill could then be put forward as a bill in the normal way.
Reddit has until a 1 April deadline to finalise its aims, publicise the act and gain a million signatures.
However it seems Reddit may have taken on more than is required to get the bill on the discussion slate at the EC - according to the commission's website only a 500-character statement of aims is required to submit the policy for consideration.