Internet Manifest (translated)

Yesterday, this Internet Manifesto was published and signed by a small, neat group of German web and media folks. It made a bit of a splash and will continue to draw attention – or so I hope – so I figured a translation might be useful for further discussion. You’ll find it after the jump.

(Apologies for typos and small mistakes. I had to translate the text on the fly, and there’s a few tricky bits in there. Please also keep in mind that by copyright the authors refer to the German Urheberrecht, which is not an exact equivalent. Feel free to point out mistakes or weakly translated points in the comments, thanks!)

Update: There’s an official (and smoother) translation on its own domain:

The authors released it under Creative Commons (cc-by), so feel free to spread the love:

Internet Manifest

How journalism works today. 17 claims.

1. The internet is different.

It creates different publics, different ways of sharing relationships and other cultural mechanisms. The media need to adapt their workflows to the technological realities instead of ignoring or fighting them. It is their duty to develop the best journalism possible based on the available technology – that includes new journalistic products and methods.

2. The internet is a media empire in your pocket

The web realigns the existing media system: It bridges its previous limitations and oligopolies. Publications and distribution of media content does not require high investments anymore. The self-image of journalism is losing it’s bottleneck function – luckily. Only journalistic quality differentiates journalism from simple publication.

3. The internet is the society is the internet.

For the majority of people in the Western world, services like social networks, Wikipedia or YouTube are part of their daily lives. They are as common as telephone or TV. If media corporations want to stay in existence, they need to understand the living environment of their users and adapt to their ways of communication. That includes the social features of communication: Listening and reacting, also known as dialog.

4. Freedom of the internet is inalienable.

The open architecture of the internet is the information-technological constitution of a society communicating digitally, and thereby of journalism. This architecture may not changed to protect economic or political self-interest who often hide behind alleged public interest. Internet access blocking of any kind endangers free sharing of information and damage the basic right of individual access to information.

5. The internet is the victory of information.

Until now, due to inadequate technology, institutions like media corporations, research centers or public institutions organized the world’s information. Now, every citizen sets up their individual news filters while search engines make accessible information in amounts previously unimaginable. Each individual person can inform herself better than ever before.

6. The internet changes improves journalism.

With the internet, journalism can fulfill its societal tasks in new ways. That includes presenting information as a constantly changing process; the loss of changelessness is a win. Who wants to succeed in this new information world needs new idealism, new journalistic ideas and pleasure in exploiting the new opportunities.

7. The web demands links.

Links are relations. We know each other through links. Who doesn’t use them excludes themselves from societal discourse. This is also valid for the web presence of traditional media corporations.

8. Links are valuable, quotations adorn.

Search engines and aggregators foster quality journalism. In the long term, they improve accessability of outstanding content and are thus an integral part of the new, network public. References by links and quotations – also and particularly without prior agreement or even renumeration of the author – are a requisite for a culture of networked societal discourse and are unconditionally worth protecting.

9. The internet is the new place for political discourse.

Democracy thrives on participation and freedom of information. To carry over political discussions from traditional media to the internet and augmenting these discussions with active participation of the public is a new task of journalism.

10. The new Freedom Of The Press is called Freedom Of Expression.

Article 5 of the German Basic Constitutional Law (“Grundgesetz”) constitutes no property right for professions or passed down technology-based business models. The internet lifts the technological barriers between amateurs and professionals. Thus, the privilege of the freedom of press need to apply to everybody who can contribute to fulfilling journalistic purposes. We need not distinguish between paid and unpaid, but between good and bad journalism.

11. More is more – there is no such thing as too much information

Traditionally it was institutions like the church who gave power priority over individual access to information and who – upon invention of the printing press – warned of a flood of unverified information. On the other side stood pamphleteers, encyclopedians and journalists who proved that more information leads to more freedom – for the individual as well as for society. This has not changed until today.

12. Tradition is no business model.

There is money to be earned with journalistic content on the internet. There are already many examples today. However, the competitive internet requires adapting the business model to the structures of the web. Nobody should try to refrain from these adaptions by means of protective policies. Journalism needs open competition for the best ways of refinancing through the web, and the courage to invest in their many implementations.

13. On the internet, copyright becomes a civic duty.

Copyright (“Urheberrecht”) is a cornerstone of organizing information in the internet. The right of authors to decide over the way and extent how their content is distributed applies on the web, too. However, copyright may not be abused as a lever to protect obsolete distribution mechanisms and to refrain from new distribution and licensing models. Property obliges.

14. The internet knows many currencies.

Ad-funded journalistic online services trade content for attention for advertising messages. A reader’s, viewer’s or listener’s time has value. This relationship has always been one of the basic funding principles for journalism. Other journalistically acceptable ways of refinancing want to be explored and tested.

15. What is on the web, stays on the web.

The internet lifts journalism to a new qualitative level. Online, texts, sounds and images do not need to be ephemeral. They stay accessible and thus become an archive of news history. Journalism needs to take into account the development and interpretation of information, as well as mistakes, it needs to admit mistakes and correct them transparently.

16. Quality is the most important quality.

The internet exposes generic mass product. Only who is outstanding, credible and special will win an audience in the long run. Users’ demands have risen. Journalism needs to fulfill these demands and stay true to its often quoted basic principles.

17. All for all.

The web is an infrastructure that’s superior for societal exchange than the mass media of the 20th century: In case of doubt, “Generation Wikipedia” knows how to judge a source’s credibility, how to trace news back to their source, research, fact-check and assess it – by themselves or in a group. Snobbish journalists without the will to respect these skills are not taken seriously by their users. Rightly so! The internet enables direct communication with the people once called readers, listeners or viewers – and to make use of their knowledge. There is no need for the know-it-all, but for the journalists communicating and asking questions.

Internet, 07.09.2009

And hereby I allow myself to express my support for this document, too.

(Found any mistakes in the translation? Please let me know. Thanks!)

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