February 20, 2018 | Cory Doctorow

Unleashing ORG in the courts

No one said protecting the digital world was going to be easy (or cheap)!

The history of internet regulation is littered with foolish, dangerous proposals made by ignorant and/or self-serving lawmakers who treated the digital world as a kind of unimportant sideshow, regulating the net as though it were a mere pornography distribution system, or a video-on-demand service, or a jihadi recruiting tool.

That lack of gravitas and joined-up thinking leads policymakers into traps, where mass surveillance arrives by means of copyright proposals, where censorship creeps in through anti-terrorism laws, where every human right we have is undermined by ill-starred plans to fight terrorism, or bullying, or nebulously defined moral turpitude.

Since its founding in 2005, ORG has led the fight to join up the dots between all these issues, organising its supporters across the UK to put pressure on firms and officials to treat the internet with the gravitas befitting the subject, and to tread lightly when determining the course of the electronic nervous system of the 21st century.

Pressure only goes so far. Even as the idea that breaking the digital world also breaks the "real world" has gained currency in wider society, Britain's policy debt of foolish rules continues to accrue interest, snaring innocents in legal jeopardy and teeing up legal action whose precedents will redound on all of us for the rest of our lives and even the lives of our children.

That's why ORG is increasingly involved in courtroom battles alongside our fights in the public sphere. We've brought actions over web-blocking, the Snooper's Charter and mass surveillance, arguing before the highest courts in the UK and the EU, and we've got more challenges pending over the government's plan to assemble a giant database of the nation's porn-viewing habits through a misbegotten and ineffective "age-verification scheme."

These challenges don't come cheap: they require sustained legal attention from the most skilled legal minds, backed by huge support teams of legal assistants. There are plenty of groups that do this work, but none fills the niche that ORG occupies. ORG is unique in bringing both legal and technical expertise to these fights, able to join up the thinking of our allies from human rights, privacy, anti-censorship and other campaigning organisations, helping build coalitions that cut across these disciplines, finding common cause and surfacing the underlying issues in all the good works our allies do.

That's why we're seeking to sign up 500 new members: these sustaining donors will provide us with the sound financial basis on which to retain and support legal experts to represent us in these fights, and speak for long-term, sustainable internet policies that do justice to that one wire that delivers free speech, a free press, free association, access to civic and political life, to education and employment, to family and creativity.

If you're not already a member, join ORG today!