Free Network Definition
The fundamental dialectic of our struggle is this: will we be enslaved
by our technology, or liberated by it?
It was in cognizance of this
notion, and in service to our collective freedom that the Free Software
Movement was born. It is in this spirit that we aim here to define
exactly what it means to say that a network is free. We hope that the
existence of this definition will help illuminate the path to a more
Our intention is to build communications systems that are owned by the
people that use them, that allow participants to own their own data, and
that use end-to-end encryption and cryptographic trust mechanisms to
assure privacy. We call such systems ‘free networks’ and they are
characterized by the following five freedoms:
Freedom 0: The freedom to participate in the network.
Freedom 0 regards your right to organize cooperative networks.
Conventional networks are characterized by a distinction between
provider and user. This mode of organization encourages network
operation in the service of self-interest. The provider builds and
owns the infrastructure, and the user pays for access. In a free
network, however, nodes connect to one another, rather than to a
single, monolithic provider. By nature of its design, a free network
is owned by those that make use of it. Participants act as providers
and users as the same time, and growth is auto-distributed by
treating any profits as investment. In this way, those that join the
network are able to become owners. This mode of organization
encourages network operation in the service of the common good.
Freedom 1: The freedom to determine where one’s data is stored.
Freedom 1 regards your right to own the material stores of your
data. Conventional networks encourage (if not force) their
participants to store their data in machines which are under the
administrative auspices of an external service provider or host.
Most folks are not able to serve data from their homes. Participants
ought to be free to store their own data (so that it is under their
care) without sacrificing their ability to publish it.
Freedom 2: The freedom to determine the parties with whom one’s data is shared.
Freedom 2 regards your right to control access to your data. Data
mining and the monetization of sharing has become common practice.
Participants should be free to choose those with whom they would
like to share a given piece of information. Only someone who owns
their own data can fully exercise this freedom, but it is an issue
regardless of where the relevant bits are stored.
Freedom 3: The freedom to transmit data to one’s peers without the prospect of
interference, interception or censorship.**
Freedom 3 regards the right to speak freely with your peers.
Information flows in conventional networks are routinely and
intentionally intercepted, obstructed, and censored. This is done at
the behest of corporate and state actors around the world. In a free
network, private communications should remain unexamined from the
time they enter the network until the time they reach their
Freedom 4: The freedom to maintain anonymity, or to present a unique, trusted identity.
Freedom 4 regards your right to construct your own identity There is
increasing pressure to forbid anonymity, and yet trustworthy
communications remain rare. While it is essential to liberty that
individuals be able to remain anonymous in the online public sphere,
it is also essential that they be able to construct and maintain
persistent, verifiable identities. Such identities might bear a
legal name, a common name, or an avatar that masks one’s corporeal
self – individuals could have many such identities, and switch
between them at will. Clear delineation between anonymous,
pseudonymous, and onymous actors would enable all of us to better
asses the trustworthiness of others on the network.