Redditors are well known for posting memes, self-referencing jokes and collecting upvotes and karma. But writing legislation to protect the Internet? That's something new, and it's happening at "r/fia," a Reddit community that's writing the Free Internet Act, or FIA.
The goal of the act is stated on the sidebar of the subreddit:
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"To promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation by preventing the restriction of liberty and preventing the means of censorship. 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. However enforcements/laws must also be put into place to protect copyrighted content."
Austrian Reddit user and apparent Pulp Fiction aficionado "RoyalWithCheese22" started FIA. Royal's inspiration came from concern about global internet censorship and bills such as SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (PROTECT IP Act).
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"My initial idea came up when I noticed all these laws popping up," says Royal. "I got the impression it’s a worldwide trend of people trying to clamp down on the Internet. I thought, inspired by the recent success Reddit had with SOPA and PIPA, maybe I should suggest another solution to this. One that not just deals with a single law or proposed treaty but one that handles all of that."
Royal was quick to point out that while he may be a moderator of the subreddit, he doesn't proclaim himself to be the director of the FIA movement.
"I’m not the leader, this is a real community project," he says. "Whatever the community decides will be done."
Another Reddit user, "Downing_Street_Cat" (who hails from the UK) saw Royal's original FIA post and started the subreddit dedicated to the cause.
"We’re aiming to create a piece of legislation that’s international and that promotes Internet freedom that prevents bills such as SOPA and ACTA," says Downing_Street_Cat.
The current draft reads like a cross between a congressional bill and an international treaty.
FIA calls for protecting the Internet against government censorship and protecting Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and users from being held liable for hosting or viewing copyrighted content without their knowledge. It demands network neutrality, while also calling for users to receive notification before data is removed from "web pages or cloud storage."
After those provisions, which sound like they could be found in domestic legislation, FIA gets international. It states that "laws of individual countries (who have signed this treaty) shall not be applicable to the Internet," and "no country shall have reigning power over the Internet." It also completely bars extradition for Internet-related crimes, requiring those convicted of a crime to be tried "in the court of their residing country."
"I hope for a global treaty," says Royal. "A global treaty to guarantee Internet freedom, to guarantee there will not be excessive censorship and third party liability."
It remains to be seen whether the provisions of FIA stand a chance of making it into law. And neither Royal nor Downing_Street_Cat want the community to be closed to legal experts only.
"We want to make it open source so anyone can join," says Downing_Street_Cat.
As for Royal, he sees FIA as an undertaking in preserving democracy.
"The Internet is just a means to get what I really want," he says. "My main goal is democracy. I think the Internet is one of the greatest inventions ever made. It’s the first time I see a real possibility for democracy in the world."
It's not entirely unexpected that the Reddit community would organize such an innovative political undertaking. Redditors were instrumental in drumming up online opposition to SOPA and PIPA, and the site was one of the first to announce a Jan. 18 blackout to protest those bills. And "pro-Internet" politicians, such as Colorado Rep. Jared Polis, have made "AMA" appearances (a public, text-based Interview) on Reddit.
Crowdsourcing legislation is not new, either. Last year, citizens of Iceland crowdsourced a new constitution. Royal credits Iceland's experiment with providing some inspiration for FIA.
“I think it’s a great idea to have people write the actual laws,” he says.
Do you think the Free Internet Act will have an impact on actual law? Sound off in the comments below.
This story originally published on Mashable here.