Internet Freedom Day

Celebrating internet freedom
Internet Freedom Day


One year after the Internet Blackout that helped defeat SOPA, Internet Freedom Day helped remind people to stay vigilant about protecting the web.
Internet Freedom Day Overview ‧ read
Internet Freedom Day - #godark
Remember when millions of internet users joined forces to defeat the SOPA censorship bill and keep the internet open for everyone? No? Well, Internet Freedom Day was created especially to remind us of that triumphant day and to celebrate the freedom of online expression we still enjoy.

Held just once on January 18, 2013, Internet Freedom Day was a day of activism and advocacy designed to keep alive the legacy of the fight against SOPA. Here’s a profile of this important event.

A big victory deserves a big celebration

Lawyer Marvin Ammori first proposed Internet Freedom Day in early January 2013. He wrote in an opinion piece for Wired magazine: “It’s not just an Internet Day that I’m proposing; it’s Internet Freedom Day. Because The Internet isn’t just itself a revolution – it sometimes starts them, too… Public participation helped create the internet, and it helps protect it. That’s worth celebrating and remembering.”

“Public participation helped create the internet, and it helps protect it.”
The idea was a hit with many of the leading digital rights advocacy groups. And boy did they act fast: Internet Freedom Day took place just 16 days after Ammori made his proposal on January 18.

Why January 18, 2013?

Why the date? Because January 18, 2013 was the one-year anniversary of the Internet Blackout, the biggest online protest in history.

Twelve months earlier, 10 million people and over 100,000 websites had participated in the Internet Blackout or Internet Strike to protest the SOPA and PIPA bills proposed by Congress. SOPA and PIPA threatened to limit free speech on the internet by giving copyright holders the right to seek court orders to shut down websites that infringed their copyright. This had potential to create a situation where powerful corporations could control what was allowed on the internet. And that would be no good at all.

Thankfully, the Internet Blackout was a roaring success. Congress shelved both bills, and one year later, everyone was ready to celebrate.

Who organized Internet Freedom Day?

Internet Freedom Day was obviously too big an event for Marvin Ammori to organize by himself. Lucky for him, plenty of others wanted to get on board. The day was coordinated by the Fight for the Future’s Center for Rights, which aims to educate the public on how to use technology to defend their digital rights.

Other supporters of Internet Freedom Day include Access Now, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Engine Advocacy.

How the people celebrated Internet Freedom Day

So how exactly did people take part on the big day?

On social media: Net users were asked to reflect on the question, “What's something you love on the net that you’d never want to see censored?” and post their answers on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Reddit, and Tumblr.

By taking action: The website encouraged visitors to engage in other digital activism campaigns, such as the Declaration of Internet Freedom and the campaign against the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

With live events: The Electronic Frontier Foundation held a special Internet Freedom Day event in San Francisco. An event was also held in Washington, DC.

In memory of activist Aaron Swartz

Internet Freedom Day also took on another meaning after the suicide of Aaron Swartz. Swartz was a programmer and internet rights activist whose remarkable achievements included co-founding Reddit and co-authoring the first RSS specification when he was only 14.

Swartz committed suicide after he was charged with stealing 4 million academic papers from the JSTOR online journal archive. He had pled not guilty.

Swartz had also co-founded Demand Progress, a grassroots organization which fights for basic rights and freedoms. The site is dedicated “to the memory of Aaron Swartz and his incredible contributions to freedom, justice, and transparency.”

The future of Internet Freedom Day

Marvin Ammori’s original vision for Internet Freedom Day was to make it an unofficial holiday celebrated every year. Although the 2013 event was a success and the Internet Freedom Day website is still live, it hasn’t been updated since 2013. In recent years, January 18 has come and gone with little fanfare.

That’s a shame, because our online freedom is truly worth celebrating. And if we want to keep the internet free, we need everyone to know the value of our digital rights.