More than 250 tech companies and digital rights organizations on Wednesday sent a joint letter to Congress, blasting the corporate-backed trade deal they say "actively silences the voices of Internet users, start-ups, and small tech companies...while undermining the health of the entire Web."
The letter (embedded below)—whose signatories include AVG Technologies, DreamHost, Namecheap, Mediafire, Imgur, Internet Archive, BoingBoing, Piwik, Private Internet Access, and more than 200 others—calls on Congress to come out against Fast Track, or Trade Promotion Authority, which they say "legitimizes" the secret process under which mammoth trade pacts are negotiated.
"TPP is a huge threat to the Internet and its users. Full stop."
—Maira Sutton, Electronic Frontier Foundation
"The Fast Track...process actively silences the voices of Internet users, start-ups, and small tech companies while giving the biggest players even more power to set policy that benefits a few select companies while undermining the health of the entire Web," said Evan Greer, campaign director of the digital rights group Fight for the Future.
In particular, the letter expresses concerns about how the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership—which it notes goes "far beyond the scope of traditional trade policy"—would impact everything from net neutrality to online freedom of expression to digital innovation.
"We simply cannot allow our policymakers to use secret trade negotiations to make digital policy for the 21st century," said Maira Sutton, global policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "The TPP is a huge threat to the Internet and its users. Full stop."
Leaked portions of the TPP agreement and the current Fast Track bill indicate "that no one is even considering the impact on the digital economy and digital rights," added Mike Masnick, founder of the Copia Institute, a new 'digital-native' think tank.
For example, the letter reads: "The TPP Investment Chapter contains text that would enable corporations to sue nations over democratic rules that allegedly harm expected profits. Companies can use this process to undermine U.S. rules like fair use, net neutrality, and others designed to protect the free, open Internet and users' rights to free expression online."
"If TPP's backers truly believed that they were doing the people's work, they'd have invited the people into the room."
—Cory Doctorow, BoingBoingDavid Heinemeier Hansson, partner at Basecamp and creator of the popular Ruby on Rails web development framework: “TPP makes a mockery of democratic legislative ideals. It's shrouded in secrecy exactly because it would wither in sunlight. It's a terrible piece of overreach to endow a few special interests with enormous and unsavory power. The whole thing needs to be scrapped and started over. International trade is too important to have it hitched to this collection of wishful thinking by a select few.
That such provisions have been crafted with minimal transparency should serve as a warning, said author and journalist Cory Doctorow, who declared: "Democracies make their laws in public, not in smoke-filled rooms. If TPP's backers truly believed that they were doing the people's work, they'd have invited the people into the room. The fact that they went to extreme, unprecedented measures to stop anyone from finding out what was going on—even going so far as to threaten Congress with jail if they spoke about it—tells you that this is something being done to Americans, not for Americans."
The full letter is embedded below: