While US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, who oversees the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP), continues to declare that the trade negotiations are “the most open, transparent process ever,” we are confounded as to what he defines to be "open" or "transparent." They have yet to even provide the public — civil society organizations and policy makers — with any official documents relating to the text of the agreement. We are fighting for real transparency, which means access to the current draft documents or country proposals for provisions to into the agreement.
Since direct participation in the process is not possible, the public is using social media and online platforms to raise awareness and voice their concerns around the TPP. Internet users around the world are eager to participate in these trade meetings and ensure that this agreement will not effect their digital liberties.
At this time, EFF’s TPP action center has sent over 77,000 messages to Congress Members; the Avaaz petition has almost reached 690,000 signatures; and OpenMedia’s Stop the Trap petition has received more than 110,000 signatures. These numbers show that Internet users are coming to understand that the TPP poses a direct threat to their digital rights, and want to show government leaders and trade negotiators that they will no longer be silent as the TPP continues to roll forward without any democratic oversight.
We interviewed the Executive Director of OpenMedia, Steve Anderson, to discuss their international Stop The Trap coalition campaign.
EFF: What is the StopTheTrap.net coalition and why it was created?
Steve Anderson: The StopTheTrap.net Coalition is a diverse group of organizations and people who have come together to stand against the Internet restrictions being proposed in the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. OpenMedia and its partners in this Coalition aim to enable citizens, civil society organizations, and web businesses to effectively speak out against the TPP's threat to our Internet freedom.
The StopTheTrap.net campaign serves as an online platform that uses the Internet—particularly social media and other online tools—to amplify our voices against the Internet trap, currently being set by industry lobbyists through the TPP. Big media conglomerates wish to use the TPP to protect their outdated business models; we're using the Internet to protect and advance our digital rights.
We strongly believe in using the Internet to save the Internet. Together, we act as the Internet's immune system.1 We built on that momentum when, in the weeks leading up to the Virginia round of TPP talks, we launched a new tool at OpenTheTPP.net. The tool allows citizens to submit comments about the TPP, which Coalition partners took and projected on the walls right inside the meeting venue. Thousands took action, and their thoughts about the TPP were splashed across the walls in front of negotiators through a series of projections.
EFF: What has been the impact of the campaign in Canada and outside Canada?
Anderson: Canada has a robust Internet freedom movement as evinced in the recent success of the Stop The Meter campaign and the fight against online spying bill C-30. We at OpenMedia never intended to take action on international campaigns, but our supporters recognized the threat that TPP posed to their digital rights and pushed us to get involved. We work for citizens, and recognizing their concerns, so we took action.
To date, several prominent Canadian organizations and businesses—including the Council of Canadians and domain hosting company TuCows—have joined the campaign. Almost all of Canada’ key opposition parties (the NDP, Liberal Party, and Green Party) have come out against the TPP's Internet restrictions in recent months. Momentum is growing and we hope the Conservative Government will rethink their participation in the TPP.
Almost 110,000 people from several countries around the world have signed the StopTheTrap.net petition, and many have spread the word in their online and offline communities.
EFF: What are the next steps and goals of the Stop the Trap campaign and how do they relate to OpenMedia’s mission?
Anderson: In short, we’ll work to engage more people, organizations, and web businesses in fighting for Internet freedom. We know that the chapter of the TPP that forces Internet restrictions is fast becoming the biggest challenge to negotiators, and we know that it’s due to public outcry. We intend to build on this public involvement until they open the process and strip out invasive rules, including provisions that give media conglomerate new powers to fine Internet users, block websites, and terminate our access to the Internet.
If TPP negotiators to listen to us fully now, there are several key inflection points coming up such as Mexico and Canada officially joining the TPP and a new round of meetings. OpenMedia’s mission is to safeguard the possibilities of the Internet through participatory digital policymaking. If the TPP process continues we will continue to find creative and effective ways to insert citizen voices into the process, until officials realize that citizens should be in the driver’s seat of any binding agreement that affects our use of the Internet.
You can visit the Stop the Trap petition here.
Join EFF and more than 25,000 people in sending a message to Congress members to demand an end to these secret backdoor negotiations: