Based on the overwhelming support of ATS members on this issue, we've completed and launched an information site, complete with links to a petition
and a service that emails our letters to the appropriate congressional representatives.
The Independent Web Is In Danger
Imagine a web without LOL Cats, Slash Dot, Boing Boing, AlterNet.org, and most of the other popular free web sites that offer a wealth of entertaining
and culturally important user-generated and user-directed content. A web where mainstream media and mega-sites dominate and control online content and
the opportunities for unconstrained free expression are all but eliminated from digital society. The concept of the "free web," in terms of both
free content and free expression, is under attack through proposed legislation disguised as initiatives to "protect online privacy."
If U.S. Congressman Rich Boucher has his way, the independent web will disappear. He is proposing legislation that will all-but eliminate the only
source of revenue for small and medium-sized websites, third-party Internet advertising networks. Couched as a "deep concern" for the potential of
privacy invasion, the proposed legislation is little more than a methodology by which to strangle the independent web, in favor of the very-large
websites from major media corporations.
The Proposed Legislation
In a nut-shell, the proposed legislation would require web site publishers to inform users of the use of third-party ad networks prior to displaying
any such ads. It is expected that users will choose to opt-in or out of receiving those ads prior to using the publisher's site. If a user takes no
action, the publisher is expected to assume the user wishes not to receive advertising from third-party sources. Since the overwhelming majority of
small-to-medium websites have no sales or advertising staff, the only viable source of operational revenue is these very same third-party ad networks.
The result will be a severe, if not total, loss of the revenue that pays for servers and technology, and the eventual death of the independent web.
Controlling Third-Party Ad Networks
No-one is arguing the point that we must establish clear rules (and laws if necessary) that restricts the use of the data collected by third-party ad
networks for the purpose of targeting Internet advertising. There are valid (if not speculative) concerns over the nature of the collected data and
the potential for abuse. However, no solution should result in favoring one segment online publishers, and certainly no solution should harm one of
the few growing areas of our fragile economy.
What Can Users Do?
We've set up several methods for you to take action and play a role in having our voices (users of the Independent Web) heard on Capitol Hill.
You can read about our service that enables you to immediately send emails to your representatives
that automatically selects the appropriate targets based on your home address.
Or you can learn about our online petition
which we admit may have limited direct effectiveness, but
can be an excellent awareness-building vehicle.
You may also link to us
to help spread the word about this effort on your own website, or the blogs and
discussion boards you visit.