Internet : Criminalización VS Netdemocracy


The power of the Internet and social networks as a citizen mobilisation tool and for the coordination of activism has become apparent on a large scale throughout the last two years. The uprisings carried out to fight for freedom in the Arab speaking world and the emergency of movements such as #15M (Indignados), Occupy and the Mexican #YoSoy132 have shown that it is essential to update existing democracies while creating a new concept of citizenship, changing the relationship between governments and the governed. The Internet is a new social and democratic transformation tool that citizens are using in an increasingly active and transformative way, being as well the battle field to confront power.

The struggle to defend the Internet and free culture -areas in which the Free Culture Forum has been working in for years-, makes even more sense today and is more urgent than ever before. Protecting the Internet boils down to protecting this new digital period and to secure the paradigm shift.

Similarly to what the Free Culture Forum did in its 2010 edition (when the FCForum presented the report about sustainable models for the creative sector), the Free Culture Forum 2012 has dedicated a whole section of its work to speed up the reconversion of the cultural sector.

The FCForum’s 2012 strategy based within this field focuses above all on deactivating the excuses that are concealed within the defence of copyright in order to attack the Internet and block the free circulation of knowledge, information and development of new forms of economy, sustainability and the involvement of citizens.

In order to deactivate the “copyright” excuse, two proposals have been put forward. The first one is geared to widen the scope of crowdfunding in order to then convert it into a real funding/financing tool. The second, the launching of the Spanish section Taringa! Music, aims to revolutionalise profit-seeking exchange services.

The FCForum has also launched a Positive Agenda for the reform of author rights on a European level: it is a collaborative prototype which has been developed alongside the Quadrature du Net, Communia and Richard Stallman, the inventor of free software and copyleft practices, who seeks to replace the repressive and restrictive focus of laws that concern the Internet (either current or future ones) for one that drives free access and the circulation of culture forward.

Although civil society had collectively achieved important legal victories throughout 2012 (from the rejection of the American laws ACTA and PIPA to the UN’s acknowledgement of online freedom of expression as a fundamental right); there is still a long way to go and new threats to look out for.

Aware of their loss of power; governments and lobbies are looking closely at controlling more widely the way in which citizens use computers, developing new laws or reforming existing ones and including the concept of “cibercrime”, as is the case in the Spanish Criminal Law reform. It is a repressive focus that aims at controlling the Internet in a political way; deactivating the capability of connected and organised citizens to articulate civil disobedience movements through the Internet and control the activity of governments and corporations.

The Internet is a tool for transformation and struggle but, in order to have a truly democratic society in which everyone can decide freely, it is necessary to ensure transparency, the access to public data and secure freedom of information. The more information we have, the bigger the knowledge and control citizens can exercise over governments and corporations. It is also essential to boost active participation of citizens in decision making over public matters that concern them.

Participation, freedom of information and transparency are inalienable values and key indicators for democracy of the 21st century. Connected citizens are already building in the Internet conditions needed for this to be possible. The so-called citizen journalism and new professional independent journalism have put an end to the information monopoly treasured by the power lobbies. Numerous emerging civil society initiatives seek to increase transparency and are rescuing from administrative opacity hidden public information; from issues such as how decisions are taken to how to manage money. In parallel, new tools are being investigated and developed in order to allow citizens to participate in legislative processes and in public decision making.

The FCForum 2012 has had some in-depth debates about all of these capital matters. It has analysed the repressive laws and the methods and tools to defeat them, out of both activism and security; it has debated around the challenges of new journalistic models, it has studied digital participative tools and has shared the experience of various actors and citizen platforms that fight for transparency. Out of all of this, the FCForum has put agglutinating strategies and mechanisms into operation with the aim of boosting collaborative work.


Interventions, debates, and workshops carried out in the 2012 Free Culture Forum emphasised that connected citizens and collective intelligence are more advanced and go beyond what legislators are capable of. It is necessary to update democracy and this implies not only transforming it by and for the citizens but to also consecrate key values like direct, real and effective participation, transparency, the right of access to public information and the free flow of information.

The emergence of the 15M movement in Spain has shined a light on all that was lacking and has undertaken a very creative process of social and political reconstruction that uses the Internet as a privileged medium and tool.

But there is still a lot of ground to cover and a lot of obstacles to overcome. Political and economic power has begun to understand the potentiality of connected citizens and it tries to deactivate civil disobedience movements with repressive measures, with both policing and legislation, and with measures which affect both fighting in the street and on the Internet.

At the same time, the Spanish government tries to pass in Parliament a transparency and access to information law that continues protecting secrecy in the administration and, therefore, the interests of the powerful.

The spreading of public service information is restricted by groups of power and the interests of big corporations who own or finance mass media and banks that guarantee their control through loans. While mass media censors itself to please its owners; small and alternative media become targets of pressures that look to silence uncomfortable information.

Connected citizens have won great victories but should continue working and, above all, coordinate and act in a collaborative manner. A good number of platforms for social struggle exist in many areas; endless citizen journalism initiatives that are setting the informative agenda and projects that work for transparency, but the vast majority are small group initiatives that work altruistically and unpaid.

The next step is to professionalise them, avoid duplicities, share resources and tools and create sustainable projects that have a great impact.

The 15M and the 25S have generated a process of democratic transformation that must be followed by a constitutional process. It is an essential step that demands a profound reflection and the study of pioneer prototypes that use technology to increment efficiency and collective and collaborative participation.

The use of the Internet is essential in this process and therefore, more than ever, it is necessary to defend it and deactivate all the excuses used to try to attack and subdue it.