The Digital BOR

March 11, 2021 by Ishaan Koratkar

In the US the Bill of Rights tells everyone their basic and fundamental rights in the country. We don’t have something like that for the digital world, and it seems difficult to write a legislative document without potentially destroying some of the things that make the internet work.

Here’s my semi-serious attempt at 5:50 am on a Thursday:

1. Right to Data

Sites may track you, as long as the data they take is anonymous and please stop sending people razors on their 18th birthdays, how in the hell did you know that? [1]

2. Right to Respectful Advertising

Content publishers and pseudo-content publishers (e.g. social media sites) are allowed to advertise, but don’t put those really disturbing click-bait images up, they are horrid and disturbing and just make people turn on their ad-blockers. So you can put ads up, just be nice about it.

3. Right to Obvious Advertising

Sites must make it obvious what is an ad and what is not.

4. Right to Compute

You may only compute things on a users device if they are aware of it. Things like bitcoin scripts in web pages are only permissible if the user knows what you’re doing!

5. Right to Chronology

Given that many companies (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) have designed their service’s feeds to be as engaging as possible, effectively making them addictive, users should be at all times aware of the fact they are doing this. In addition, there must be an easy to find setting to enable chronological browsing, making a service more like RSS.

6. Right to VPN

Sites may not knowingly block any IP address for regional content lock related reasons (looking at you, Netflix).

7. Right to Declaring Moderation

Not all sites want to moderate their content, but they should make a clear distinction on if they are allowed to take down user content for that reason. Example: A site like GitHub could declare they don’t moderate, so no company can file a “take that thing down” on them and expect them to care.

8. Right to Files

If a service that users store data on files for bankruptcy or shuts down for another reason, users should be able to get a copy of their data they can use on other services.

9. Right to Obvious Subscription

If a user signs up for your free-trial, they shouldn’t get charged for forgetting to cancel it.

10. Right to Disregarding These Rights

The internet is a global and powerful thing. It seems that it should have it’s own set of rights that apply everywhere. Though maybe that’s a stupid idea. The internet should remain decentralized and no one can make a rule that everybody has to follow. The internet is yours to create content on, build businesses on, express yourself creatively on. Don’t let anyone ever take that away from you.

  1. This famous razor company in the US called Gillette does that and it’s creepy but almost on brand for a company like that. ↩︎

2021/03/11 by Ishaan Koratkar