Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and
steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the
future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome
among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.
We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I
address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself
always speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to be
naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us.
You have no moral right to rule us, nor do you possess any methods
of enforcement we have true reason to fear.
Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.
You have neither solicited nor received ours. We did not invite you.
You do not know us, nor do you know our world. Cyberspace does
not lie within your borders. Do not think that you can build it, as though
it were a public construction project. You cannot. It is an act of nature,
and it grows itself through our collective actions.
You have not engaged in our great and gathering conversation, nor
did you create the wealth of our marketplaces. You do not know our culture,
our ethics, or the unwritten codes that already provide our society
more order than could be obtained by any of your impositions.
You claim there are problems among us that you need to solve. You
use this claim as an excuse to invade our precincts. Many of these problems
don’t exist. Where there are real conflicts, where there are wrongs,
we will identify them and address them by our means. We are forming
our own Social Contract. This governance will arise according to the
conditions of our world, not yours. Our world is different.
Cyberspace consists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself,
arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications. Ours is
a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies
We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice
accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.
We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or
her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into
silence or conformity.
Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and
context do not apply to us. They are based on matter. There is no matter here.
Our identities have no bodies, so, unlike you, we cannot obtain order
by physical coercion. We believe that from ethics, enlightened self-interest,
and the commonweal, our governance will emerge. Our identities may be
distributed across many of your jurisdictions. The only law that all our
constituent cultures would generally recognize is the Golden Rule. We
hope we will be able to build our particular solutions on that basis. But
we cannot accept the solutions you are attempting to impose.
In the United States, you have today created a law, the Telecommunications
[Act of 1996], which repudiates your own Constitution and insults the dreams
of Jefferson, Washington, Mill, Madison, Tocqueville, and Brandeis.
These dreams must now be born anew in us.
You are terrified of your own children, since they are natives in a
world where you will always be immigrants. Because you fear them, you
entrust your bureaucracies with the parental responsibilities you are too
cowardly to confront yourselves. In our world, all the sentiments and
expressions of humanity, from the debasing to the angelic, are parts of a
seamless wh***, the global conversation of bits. We cannot separate the
air that chokes from the air on which wings beat.
In China, Germany, France, Russia, Singapore, Italy, and the United
States, you are trying to ward off the virus of liberty by erecting guard
posts at the frontiers of Cyberspace. These may keep out the contagion
for a small time, but they will not work in a world that will soon be
blanketed in bit-bearing media.
Your increasingly obsolete information industries would perpetuate
themselves by proposing laws, in America and elsewhere, that claim to
own speech itself throughout the world. These laws would declare ideas
to be another industrial product, no more noble than pig iron. In our
world, whatever the human mind may create can be reproduced and
distributed infinitely at no cost. The global conveyance of thought no
longer requires your factories to accomplish.
These increasingly hostile and colonial measures place us in the same
position as those previous lovers of freedom and self-determination who
had to reject the authorities of distant, uninformed powers. We must
declare our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue
to consent to your rule over our bodies. We will spread ourselves
across the Planet so that no one can arrest our thoughts.
We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be
more humane and fair than the world your governments have made
John Perry Barlow, 1996.