John Perry Barlow, an influential champion of an open internet, died Wednesday at the age of 70, according to CNET.
Barlow, the co-founder of Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the San Francisco-based digital rights group he cofounded in 1990 with John Gilmore and Mitch Kapor, had been hospitalised periodically after suffering a heart attack in 2015.
According to CNET, Barlow is probably best remembered for his “A Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace,” a 1996 paper that argued against governmental influence on the internet.
“It is no exaggeration to say that major parts of the Internet we all know and love today exist and thrive because of Barlow’s vision and leadership. He always saw the Internet as a fundamental place of freedom, where voices long silenced can find an audience and people can connect with others regardless of physical distance,” EFF Executive Director Cindy Cohn, said in the organisations’ blog.
“Barlow was sometimes held up as a straw man for a kind of naive techno-utopianism that believed that the Internet could solve all of humanity’s problems without causing any more.”
Cohn added that Barlow’s lasting legacy is that he devoted his life to making the Internet into “a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth . . . a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.”
Barlow knew that new technology could create and empower evil as much as it could create and empower good. He made a conscious decision to focus on the latter: “I knew it’s also true that a good way to invent the future is to predict it. So I predicted Utopia, hoping to give Liberty a running start before the laws of Moore and Metcalfe delivered up what Ed Snowden now correctly calls ‘turn-key totalitarianism.’”