“The Guardian’s Open 20: fighters for internet freedom”
Rickard Falkvinge – Founder, the Pirate party
Falkvinge founded the Swedish Pirate party in 2006 to focus on reforming copyright, patents and file sharing laws. The party now has an often marginal presence in 22 countries, with significant presence in Sweden, where it has two members of the European parliament, and Germany, where it polls as the third biggest political party.
Birgitta Jonsdottir – MP, The Movement, Iceland
A poet-activist turned politician, Jonsdottir has been a member of the Icelandic parliament since 2009. Best known for her involvement in bringing the WikiLeaks Collateral Murder video to the public, Jonsdottir has also been instrumental in Iceland’s efforts to become a free-speech haven, and is one of the plaintiffs suing the US government over the proposed surveillance powers granted by the NDAA bill.
John Perry Barlow – Co-founder, Electronic Frontier Foundation
The EFF, founded in 1990, described itself as “the first line of defence” when online freedoms come under attack. Through a mix of direct action, legal challenges and political advocacy, the group lobbies on freedom of speech, surveillance and intellectual property issues. The former Grateful Dead lyricist was one of the EFF’s founding members and has been one of its loudest public voices ever since.
Jacob Appelbaum – Advocate, Researcher and Developer, Tor project
Appelbaum, a computer science researcher at the University of Washington, is one of the core team of the Tor project, which protects the anonymity of thousands of internet users across the world. Also described as the group’s main advocate, Appelbaum came to wider public attention after being repeatedly stopped and searched by US officials at airports, who confiscated his electronic equipment, after he stood in for Julian Assange at a talk.
Julian Assange – Editor-in-chief, WikiLeaks
The driving force behind WikiLeaks, Assange has directed the publication of secret documents on the Afghan and Iraq wars, Guantánamo Bay prisoner files, and 250,000 US diplomatic cables. Assange is nothing if not a divisive figure, with his many disputes a matter of public record across the world – but despite these (or perhaps because of it), Assange is perhaps the figurehead of the free internet movement and a powerful voice because of it.
Ada Lovelace – Computer programmer
Ada Lovelace, who died in 1852, serves as an inspiration on the open internet. Lovelace worked with Charles Babbage on his difference engine, wrote some of the first programs for it, and so is often described as the world’s first computer programmer. Unlike Babbage, she foresaw the role of computers in making music, art and more. In recent years Ada Lovelace Day has become an online institution, aimed at promoting the role of women in science and technology, and upping their profile in the media.
Richard Stallman – Founder, Free Software Foundation
One of the world’s most vocal advocates for free software (rather than open source, a term he hates), Stallman tours the world preaching the virtues of software which is free to use and free to edit. Stallman is more than a proselytiser, though – he’s also one of the principal coders of many components of GNU (an operating system he established).
Sir Tim Berners-Lee – Inventor of the world wide web
As inventor of one of the most visible areas of the internet – the world-wide web – Berners-Lee’s role in internet history was already secure. He hasn’t, however, rested on his laurels: he is instrumental in pushing open data at high level to governments around the world, and is a campaigner against a two-tier internet. He’s also recently apologised for the two forward slashes at the start of web addresses (http://), which he admits are “completely unnecessary”.
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