Every so often in human history, something new comes along that warrants a celebration, and that deserves its own holiday. That’s why I propose we celebrate “Internet Freedom Day” later this month.
We already know there’s pent-up demand for holidays, typified by the number of official – and unofficial – holidays out there. Take Super Bowl Sunday, which is more widely celebrated than most official holidays. Take Black Friday, our post-holiday celebration of another contact sport, of sorts: shopping. Take April Fool’s Day, a celebration of pranks and human gullibility. And then there’s Pi Day (March 14, or 3.14 – get it?), a celebration of circumferences, math, and store-bought cherry pie.
So it’s shocking that we don’t already have an unofficial Internet Freedom Day, or even an official holiday like we do for the Fourth of July, given that the internet is one of the most revolutionary technologies the world has ever known. It has given us an entire universe of information in our pockets. It may connect us to spammers in Nigeria and cat videos, but it also connects us to our loved ones and people we only know from Twitter.
We need to celebrate. Because before the internet, we were in a different sort of dark age: We had to wait to hear news on TV at night or in print the next day. We had to go to record stores to find new music. Cocktail party debates couldn’t be settled on the spot. We had to wait years for encyclopedia entries to be updated. And even wizards like Hermione Granger could only find what they needed in a library full of dusty parchment books.
The internet swept through our lives and changed all of these things, and more. We hear about earthquakes before they even reach us. We can fix broken encyclopedia entries … ourselves. We can find reported news and sentiment instantly (even those of software millionaires on the run). We can share, comment, remix, create, even make – all with just a few clicks.
An unofficial holiday is especially fitting since the Internet also changed our culture. Ask Me Anything isn’t a game we would have played before; we were trained at childhood parties to take Dares over Truths. But now we can ask even President Obama anything. We wouldn’t love – or pretend to hate – the Justin Biebers of this world if it weren’t for agents discovering them on YouTube. People like Nate Silver weren’t TV-pundit-cool before the internet: now, we defend his kind of data and the internet-enabled “wrath of the math.”
But 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. It’s also why I suggest January 18 to do this. We recently had a close call on internet freedom with the ITU treaty conference, so the time is ripe to remember to defend it now. And just one year ago on January 18, there was an internet blackout over SOPA and PIPA. Wikipedia, BoingBoing, and Reddit “went black”; over forty thousand people self-censored their WordPress blogs; Google symbolically censored its search engine; and over ten million people contacted their congressional representatives to oppose the bills.
To honor this #InternetFreedomDay, I hope people will write blog posts, make videos, and throw flash mob parties. Most Wired readers probably don’t need anyone to tell them to – or suggest how to – celebrate internet freedom. You’re probably the kind of person who edits your own encyclopedia, creates your own how-to videos, and 3-D prints your own paraphernalia.
But please tell others — including your grandparents on Facebook — to join in a celebration of their daily freedom. If nothing else, you should call your representatives in Congress on January 18 to remind them that you still care about internet freedom.
Let’s spread the message in true Internet Style.