EDGI supports Internet Archive’s Decentralized Web Principles

By Kelsey Breseman

EDGI began back in 2016, when a massive data-saving movement launched in response to the realization that critical scientific data would be endangered by an anti-science Trump administration. Since then, EDGI has monitored changes to environmental information on federal websites. It has also explored the potential for community-driven data stewardship—through a decentralized web, for example—in the Data Together project.

EDGI wants a future in which access to the power data brings is distributed across the communities and protectors of places impacted by environmental governance. We believe transparency and accountability are vital stepping stones on the path to a more just environmental governance model. Thus, we are excited to support the new DWeb Principles at which set out core values for a decentralized web:

01. Technology for Human Agency

We stand for technology that enables the primacy of people as beneficiaries of the technology, by upholding their security, privacy and self-determination.

We urge coexistence and interoperability, and discourage walled gardens.

We value open source code as a fundamental building block of an open and inclusive Web.

We aim for peer-to-peer relationships, rather than hierarchical control and power imbalance.

Our technologies must minimize surveillance and manipulation of people’s behavior, and optimize for social benefits and empower individuals to determine how and why their data is used.

We believe that multiple technical means will be more effective than a single technical solution to achieve ethical and people-centric outcomes.

02. Distributed Benefits

We believe that decentralized technologies will be most beneficial to society when the rewards and recognition of their success, monetary or otherwise, are distributed among those who contributed to that success.

If that is infeasible, proportionate benefit should flow to the community at large.

High concentration of organizational control is antithetical to the decentralized web.

03. Mutual Respect

We support and encourage clear codes of conduct to ensure respectful behavior and accountability.

We expect participants to remain mindful of, and take responsibility for, their speech and behavior, by acting out of respect for others and respecting physical and emotional boundaries.

We stand for open and transparent organizational practices, motivations, and governance, in a manner that actively pursues equity, mutual trust, and respect.

04. Humanity

The objective of building a decentralized web is to protect human rights and empower people, especially those who experience systemic inequity and prejudice.

We stand for people having agency over their own data and relationships, rights to free expression, privacy, and knowledge, as these are essential to human empowerment and dignity.

We condemn the use of distributed tools for activities antithetical to human rights, such as human trafficking; sexual, mental, or physical abuse; and arms trading.

We encourage building with harm-reduction in mind, and support the adoption of mechanisms that mitigate the potential for abuse, and consideration of those ‘not at the table’ — not connected, not users, and the disadvantaged.

We encourage the development of tools and applications in many languages and forms, with a high degree of accessibility.

05. Ecological Awareness

We believe projects should aim to minimize ecological harm and avoid technologies that worsen environmental health.

We value systems that work towards reducing energy consumption and device resource requirements, while increasing device lifespan by allowing repair, recycling, and recovery.

These principles were drafted and revised over nearly a year of work, drawing from a community the Internet Archive has been cultivating since 2016. The draft principles passed through several phases including focus group workshops and several rounds of revision from members of the decentralized web community, including some EDGI members.

This set of principles is a step toward building decentralized technology that works for people and planet. It is my fond hope that the decentralization community holds the values set forth in these principles at the core of our work.