Open
Information
Initiative

open information
manifesto

Information is power*. Public information is public power, which no single entity should keep to itself. We urge for public information to be open, accessible, and available to all.

Once, the Internet was a frontier of openness, with information freely exchanged on independent servers. Today, this landscape has shifted. Major platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok control and gate trillions of pieces of public information, which they are supposed to share with the whole world.

Public information is information created with the intention of being free, and thus is to be disseminated without limit or constraint. Once brought into existence, its freedom becomes inherent. And by no way should any single entity determine its existence, flow, and interpretation. When we, digital livings, chose comfort and easiness over freedom, power was inadvertently handed to a small group of people waiting to exploit us. First, we started using apps and services that seemed to make life easier, but before we knew it, we found ourselves praying for our cyber overlords to do us no evil.

Information freedom does not naturally evolve, it degrades.

The way to resist digital slavery is not by sitting and wishing for another small group of super heroes to battle the super villains who were once the heroes themselves. As we the people have fought for equality, independence, and freedom of our physical land and body, each one of us needs to fight for the same for our digital world and being.

It’s not hard to join the fight. To begin with, when you want to post something like a blog or a picture, consider sharing it through a channel that you know is not controlled by a single party. It could be a blockchain, a decentralized network, or even a hosted website if you are looking for something more old-fashioned. And if posting on these platforms alone won’t achieve your goal as your friends and fans are kept within closed social graphs, post on both places so at least the copy on the open web is free to flow. And, if you happen to be someone with adequate technical skills, consider running some nodes and write some code to make open networks better - every action, no matter how small, fortifies our collective power.

Data giants were not born this way, we sculpted them into their current form. They are huge only because we have been feeding them an enormous amount of information and have never asked for much in return. If they can grow into giants with the power we grant them, imagine what can be accomplished with that power being redirected towards the public good. As a species, homo sapiens process information better than any other species on earth, and that is how we climbed to the top. The Internet, as the “roads among minds”, further boosts our efficiency - we’ve never witnessed the creation and dissemination of information at such an unprecedented scale in history. For us to advance, we need to make sure thoughts and ideas can flow freely on these roads. It’s time to fight for open information - we must build a future digital world where information empowers all, not just a select few.

Joshua Meng,

November 2023, California

*In tribute to the first martyr of the Freedom of Information movement, Aaron Swartz, and the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto.