'We, The Web Kids': Manifesto For An Anti-ACTA Generation

from the future-in-safe-hands dept

One of the striking features of the demonstrations against ACTA that took place across Europe over the last few weeks was the youth of the participants. That’s not to say that only young people are concerned about ACTA, but it’s an indication that they take its assault on the Internet very personally — unlike, perhaps, older and more dispassionate critics.

As sometimes happens, a text has been floating around that captures rather well the spirit of that generation. It was originally written in Polish, and released under a liberal cc-by license; there are now a number of translations. As its author, Piotr Czerski, wrote in an email to Techdirt, its origins were quite humble:

I was asked by the journalist from local newspaper to write a text explaining difference between “analog” and “digital” generations. I thought that I should write something more: text, which can offer some kind of self-identity for all this different people protesting against ACTA. So I used the poetics of manifesto.

The whole piece is really well-written and perceptive. Here’s the key self-definition of those “Web kids” in the English translation by Marta Szreder:

We grew up with the Internet and on the Internet. This is what makes us different; this is what makes the crucial, although surprising from your point of view, difference: we do not ‘surf’ and the internet to us is not a ‘place’ or ‘virtual space’. The Internet to us is not something external to reality but a part of it: an invisible yet constantly present layer intertwined with the physical environment. We do not use the Internet, we live on the Internet and along it. If we were to tell our bildnungsroman to you, the analog, we could say there was a natural Internet aspect to every single experience that has shaped us. We made friends and enemies online, we prepared cribs for tests online, we planned parties and studying sessions online, we fell in love and broke up online. The Web to us is not a technology which we had to learn and which we managed to get a grip of. The Web is a process, happening continuously and continuously transforming before our eyes; with us and through us. Technologies appear and then dissolve in the peripheries, websites are built, they bloom and then pass away, but the Web continues, because we are the Web; we, communicating with one another in a way that comes naturally to us, more intense and more efficient than ever before in the history of mankind.

Because of this, the Web kids depend on the ability to access a vast range of content online:

Participating in cultural life is not something out of ordinary to us: global culture is the fundamental building block of our identity, more important for defining ourselves than traditions, historical narratives, social status, ancestry, or even the language that we use. From the ocean of cultural events we pick the ones that suit us the most; we interact with them, we review them, we save our reviews on websites created for that purpose, which also give us suggestions of other albums, films or games that we might like. Some films, series or videos we watch together with colleagues or with friends from around the world; our appreciation of some is only shared by a small group of people that perhaps we will never meet face to face. This is why we feel that culture is becoming simultaneously global and individual. This is why we need free access to it.

But they are not naive: they know that artists need to earn money to live, and even have practical suggestions about how that can be done in a world of digital abundance:

This does not mean that we demand that all products of culture be available to us without charge, although when we create something, we usually just give it back for circulation. We understand that, despite the increasing accessibility of technologies which make the quality of movie or sound files so far reserved for professionals available to everyone, creativity requires effort and investment. We are prepared to pay, but the giant commission that distributors ask for seems to us to be obviously overestimated. Why should we pay for the distribution of information that can be easily and perfectly copied without any loss of the original quality? If we are only getting the information alone, we want the price to be proportional to it. We are willing to pay more, but then we expect to receive some added value: an interesting packaging, a gadget, a higher quality, the option of watching here and now, without waiting for the file to download. We are capable of showing appreciation and we do want to reward the artist (since money stopped being paper notes and became a string of numbers on the screen, paying has become a somewhat symbolic act of exchange that is supposed to benefit both parties), but the sales goals of corporations are of no interest to us whatsoever. It is not our fault that their business has ceased to make sense in its traditional form, and that instead of accepting the challenge and trying to reach us with something more than we can get for free they have decided to defend their obsolete ways.

The text makes lots of other interesting comments, and I urge you to read it. It goes some way to explaining why so many young people were prepared to brave sub-zero temperatures across Europe to march against what is, after all, just a trade agreement — not something that normally brings people onto the streets. It also suggests that the European Commission’s tactic of referring ACTA to the European Court of Justice, in the hope that people will forget about it and move on to other concerns by the time the decision is handed down, is doomed to failure. As the Web kids manifesto explains:

To us, the Web is a sort of shared external memory. We do not have to remember unnecessary details: dates, sums, formulas, clauses, street names, detailed definitions. It is enough for us to have an abstract, the essence that is needed to process the information and relate it to others. Should we need the details, we can look them up within seconds.

The Web certainly won’t forget about ACTA, and neither will the Web kids.

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Comments on “'We, The Web Kids': Manifesto For An Anti-ACTA Generation”

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Hephaestus (profile) says:

I have been trying to define what is happening online for a couple years now. Douglas Wood coined the phrase the “Party Of We”. This fits in under the umbrella of the concept. I really feel sorry for the politicians when this change in thinking becomes seriously visible.

Its amazing that the safety of anonymity, at a distance relationships, and the ability to quickly move away from relationships that do not work, could cause such a fundamental change. A change towards consensus based social structures as opposed to hierarchical based ones.

Mesonoxian Eve (profile) says:

I’ve seen a “manifesto” like this before, but it’s always refreshing to see it again.

What strikes me is how some people don’t realize how the internet changed the world, not just business. It literally has become so ingrained into our personal lives, not having it is almost a loss of a right.

Years ago, businesses would ask for our phone number or mailing address. Now it’s our hash and email.

Many of us don’t write checks anymore, cross-checking with a monthly mailing statement and spending the next 6 fighting the bank as it took two cents.

TV guides were once a treasured mailbox delivery, but now is considered wasteful (take a hint, Yellow Pages).

It just strikes me as terrifying a few old bastards want to shut it all down because we’re tired of buying plastic disks which we can’t even sell for more than $1 in garage sales.

What’s worse: their businesses were all founded on illegal business practices on top of it. To see them claim we’re breaking their laws is utter stupidity.

Just once, I wish Congress and the governments around the world look into these businesses and start arresting them for their illegal practices.

Start with the makers of Omega watches to “send a message”.

Digital Consumer (profile) says:

Didn't even read the article, but...

So I was reading through the comments on a yahoo news blog about the redbox delay negotiations, and I was about 30 comments in, and there was not a single person that could understand why the studios didn’t want their money, the people
that mentioned they actually bought dvds/bluerays mentioned that either they would only watch first before purchasing, they would wait for it in the 3 dollar bargin bin, or they would go pirate it in disgust. This is yahoo news where infantile trolls run rampant, and not one person was trolling. It was amazing how deaf hollywood is.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Not Just The Youngins

I would just like to add that while this type of thinking is obviously more prevalent in the 20 something generation, it is not limited to only them. There are definitely some of us older folks who feel the same.

From my first exposure to personal computing and programming (can you say TRS-80?) in my early teens all the way through watching the internet develop into what it is today, I have always felt we were building the greatest tool mankind has ever known.

DCX2 says:


I always believed that the Internet has made my generation the most connected generation ever.

We know that there are terrible things happening, in other countries and our own, thanks to the Internet. We used myspace to stage concerts whose proceeds would go to helping the poor people of Darfur. We tweeted ourselves wearing green to support the Iranians who wanted freedom from their oppressive government. When tragedy happens, there is no “us” and “them”; there is only “we”, human beings, struggling to survive.

We are connected in a way that no generation before us has ever been, and it is fundamentally changing the nature of humanity. In ten or twenty years, there will be no debate on gay marriage. Muslims’ fourth amendment rights will not be violated by the NYPD. It won’t be utopia; we may not love each other…we may not even like each other…but we will not hate each other.

Marc says:

Re: Connected

I wish that were true. You’ll learn soon enough that there are douchebags in every generation, you just haven’t been exposed to the ones in yours yet — trust me, though, they exist and they will have an impact on your world just as soon as you have a mortgage and two kids in college and no longer have the time to donate to the cause of shutting them down.

Rich says:

As an engineer, I find the misuse of analog/digital to mean physical/non-physical or online/off-line to be very annoying. Although, I’m sure I’m alone in that. It’s most annoying when someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about corrects someone that does. A good example is awhile back, on this very forum, someone “corrected” a poster for saying a CD was digital. The correction was, “the recording on the CD may be digital, but the physical disc is analog.” Complete rubbish!

Anonymous Coward says:


You can use Festival.

Or use the Google Translate API or one of the many TTS(Text To Speech) for Chrome or Firefox.

Then you don’t need to imagine, I use Chrome-Speak It!(but can’t recommend this one since it sends all the data to Google Translate to read it).


pixelpusher220 (profile) says:


The image I crafted in my mind while reading this is:

Content creation is a mere pebble.

The internet/web is the medium through which it’s effects ripple. Ever expanding in all directions…

You can try to stop it, but more and more people are throwing their own ‘pebbles’ into the ‘water’ and creating a tsunami you won’t be able to stop.

But you can surf it…

Anonymous Coward says:

Didn't even read the article, but...

The comment box sometimes fail, it changes things but I don’t believe is to correct you, it is more likely a “rogue regex” against XSS that has gone haywire.

If you preview a list of URLs you will noticed that it inserts some spaces where it shouldn’t.

Also some characters seem to trigger.
What have you been typing?

Anonymous Coward says:

this shows how serious an issue the internet is to todays people, in particular the younger generations. it also shows how far they think the politicians that keep making more and more harsh rules for the internet are out of date and out of touch with it. unless they are listened to, these ‘web’ people are not going to lie down, especially for an outdated industry with outdated ideas that think can be preserved in a new age

Joe Publius (profile) says:

“It is not our fault that their business has ceased to make sense in its traditional form, and that instead of accepting the challenge and trying to reach us with something more than we can get for free they have decided to defend their obsolete ways.”

This, This, a million times this!

I consider the entire manifesto continued proof that while they can be often dumb or foolhardy, kids are in general just fine. Again, accusations that “those darn kids are going to ruin the world” are not only premature, but reflections from bitter adults who are too stubborn to either change with the times, or appreciate its unique beauty.

When the day comes that I can no longer keep up with youth culture, God bid me to judge them for what they do, and nothing else.

Anonymous Coward says:


Right, Romney just screams ex-hippie. I see this idea thrown around all the time but there are plenty of people who were not hippies in the 70s and plenty of people who just did a lot of drugs/parting without ever embracing the hippie ideals. Plenty of people manage to make it through life without selling out the ideals and dreams of their 20s.

Anonymous Coward says:


Actually Romney was the other side, the square kid who sided with the police in their actions to quash the hippie movement.

Two sides to every battle.

Very few people make it through with their ideals entirely intact. Getting life experience on the other side of the deal often opens people’s eyes up and makes them realize that the idealistic view of youth is often just not right.

Anonymous Coward says:


I know the world will never be what I hoped it would be when I was 21 but that doesn’t mean I ever have to do anything that would make that young me ashamed of me. Even though sometimes, and often, that isn’t the easiest path.

It’s easier to conform to the ideals of society as a whole and a lot of people do. They just kind of give up on making that better world. This just doesn’t mean they were not right as children just that they don’t have the willpower and tenacity to spend their whole life pushing against the grain. I don’t fault anyone for this but it doesn’t mean they were wrong to want the world to be better.

I mean like you said, Romney never changed 😉

Of course mileage varies for ideals but believing we should all love each other a little more, share with those that need help and generally be a little kinder and not allow our personal advancement to impede the happiness of others, as the hippies did, is not wrong per se. It’s just hard to keep that attitude without becoming jaded or cynical or just saying fuck it everyone is trying to shit on me why should I be nice to strangers or people I’ll never meet.

Then again I am sure some kid thinks the world would be better if we all just drank a little more human blood or if Britney Spears was ruler of the world, hopefully stuff like that does get grown out of.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

A possible companion piece?

I’ve been interested in what people have been writing about concerning a post-capitalist society. The shareable movement seems the most concrete right now in terms of changing the way we view consumption. I’m also intrigued with projects that are designed to address the needs of the poorest in the world rather than those who have lots of disposable income.

The very nature of work will likely change as machines can do more and more things. Theoretically, this should give us more free time, but what we currently see are some groups working excessive hours and others unemployed. Youth unemployment in Europe will be an on-going issue. And US young adults who are living with parents in order to pay off college loans is also changing consumption dynamics. Overall, the issue of income inequality.

AB says:

Thank you

Thank you for publishing this here. Even though I ‘know’ all this already, it still comes as an eye-opener to see the whole picture from this perspective.

As a member of the ‘older generation’ – ouch – I watched as the internet was created. I know how it works. To me it will always be a ‘tool’. It is useful, entertaining, educational, and exciting, but still just a tool. I doubt it will ever engulf my world as it does these young people. Nor will I ever truly grasp their perspective in this any more then my grandparents could really grasp how integral electricity is to my world.

It really makes me realize how difficult this must be for the old boys who’s corporate world is being torn apart by the change. That’s not to say I have any sympathy for them – they don’t deserve it – but it gives me a greater understanding of their idiocy.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Thank you

My Internet experience goes back to the BBS days and then the beginning of the WWW. So I have watched the commercialization of the Internet evolve.

Although there are some revolutionary forces, what I see are Internet entrepreneurs who are still locked into old systems and aren’t prepared to be disrupted themselves. When companies are launched with VC money and then go public, they are constrained by the traditional forces of Wall Street. Decisions are made based on profitability and quarterly results. Our financial systems tend to reward activities that don’t necessarily produce the kinds of changes that society can really use.

I see a Silicon Alley bubble that seems to me to be as myopic as what I see from Wall Street and from Hollywood. So I encourage people to think outside their own boxes, whatever those may be.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

A possible companion piece?

Between 3D printing, robotics, better technology, and nanotechnology, in a couple years everything is going to change in a serious way. When anyone can manufacture anything at home it destroys the current system because scarcities disappear. Shipping, telecom, pharma, manufacturing, construction, etc all gone.

What do we all do with ourselves then? How does the government get funded? Do we even need government, or just a set of rules and agreements? The list is to large to discuss here.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

A possible companion piece?

Between 3D printing, robotics, better technology, and nanotechnology, in a couple years everything is going to change in a serious way. When anyone can manufacture anything at home it destroys the current system because scarcities disappear. Shipping, telecom, pharma, manufacturing, construction, etc all gone.

Yes, that’s the world I’m focused on.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

A possible companion piece?

Also, as I have been following international financial discussions, I’ve come to see that what passes for finance doesn’t involve any real wealth creation. It’s a lot of numbers back and forth. Makes you wonder if in the end we could just eliminate money altogether. Not just physical money, but the entire concept. If much of it is just generated in a computer and doesn’t really represent much other than the acceptance of power/control/wealth, maybe in the end a lot of it is meaningless.

Anonymous Coward says:

To us, the Web is a sort of shared external memory. We do not have to remember unnecessary details: dates, sums, formulas, clauses, street names, detailed definitions. It is enough for us to have an abstract, the essence that is needed to process the information and relate it to others. Should we need the details, we can look them up within seconds.

Oh for crying out loud. How convenient! “We’re smart without having to be, you know, smart!”

I’m part of this generation and stuff like this makes me want to puke. I sincerely hope that one day these people won’t be forced to learn the difference between being ‘tech-savvy’ and ‘tech-dependent’.

“The web is not the truth! The web is a goddamned amusement park!”

Torg (profile) says:


The thing is that “smart” no longer means knowing the dates that various treaties were signed on, but being able to tell what effect those treaties had and drawing comparisons to present day. We also need to be able to verify our sources, rather than just believing everything we read. Critical thinking and rationality are still useful, it’s just memorizing that’s been mechanized. I fail to see why this is a bad thing.

Marc says:

Re: Re:

Being smart has *never* meant knowing the dates that various treaties were signed on. It has always meant the ability to synthesis and understand information.

The difference between pre and post Internet is that today, we can supplement what we know with what’s been made available online. Once we’ve learned to complement what we’ve *trained* our brains to do, with what others have made available to us, we get to step into the next level of human development — something that’s been happening now for literally decades, and something that people of all ages are well aware of.

I get the impression that many young people are still not getting that the party started well before they even got here, and it makes me very sad.

Yes, it’s f@cked up that we have to deal with things like ACTA and PIPA, but it’s not the ‘older generations’ that are creating them, it’s the people with money: people who want to keep their money.

AB says:



Intelligence and memory are two very different things. Too often we see a dumb person with a good memory get the promotion while his more intelligent and creative coworkers get left behind. The problem is that a good memory can ’emulate’ intelligence, while no amount of intelligence could overcome the basic limitations of a poor memory.

The internet is not an excuse to ignore proper learning (though many will use it as such) rather it is a tool to assist those smart enough to use it effectively. And as creativity becomes more important in day-to-day life the difference between actually being smart and just having a good memory becomes more visible then ever.

Remember we aren’t just talking about using a calculator in math class here (a bad idea at the best of times), we are talking about being able to search the entire school library without leaving your desk.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:


Or you can swim in it, follow its currents and be surprised by it.

It recognizes what is most important, the freedom the Web has given us all, mere surfers, old internet technologies like IRC which is where I met my partner.

In many ways it’s a manifesto. Perhaps not intended but then the best manifestos are the ones that are unintentional.

I can and do understand what the writer is talking about after being, for all practical purposes being a shut in in the three years since I broke my back. What the writer looks for and does on the web is what I look for and do now. For example I no longer find the need by some professions and governments to use paper and snail mail rather than secure web connections and email.

These are the people that will remake our world. I hope they do a better job than we Boomers did.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Not Just The Youngins

I can say Trash 80. 😉

I also worked as a technician the past 35 years at a telco and watched not only the immense changes in technology that have made the Internet and the Web so widely available. It wouldn’t be far from lying if I said the Web feels like it’s a part of my right arm. Probably the source of a lot of my opposition to ACTA/SOPA/PIPA and other actions that would end up censoring and restricting the Web or the Internet as a whole.

Marc says:

Re: Not Just The Youngins


I’m full grown adult, I can’t deny it at this point, and the Internet has been a part of me for almost 2 decades now… I know I’m not alone in this. Young people seem completely unable to comprehend that personal computers have been a part of mainstream society for over 35 years, and that people have been obsessing over them almost from day one.

Everything that we know today grew out of the tiny kernels of imagination planted before I was even born, and nurtured when I was a child in the ’70s. This digital world belongs to everyone, young and old, the ‘web kids’ are just a little late to the party.

G Thompson (profile) says:

A Conscience for these times

Way back in 1986 I read a nice little Manifesto written by a someone called “The mentor” that made me sit up, nod my head profusely, and shout YES someone else gets it.

[This] is our world now… the world of the electron and the switch, the beauty of the baud. We make use of a service already existing without paying for what could be dirt-cheap if it wasn’t run by profiteering gluttons, and you call us criminals. We explore… and you call us criminals. We seek after knowledge… and you call us criminals. We exist without skin colour, without nationality, without religious bias… and you call us criminals. You build atomic bombs, you wage wars, you murder, cheat, and lie to us and try to make us believe it’s for our own good, yet we’re the criminals.

Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of curiosity. My crime is that of judging people by what they say and think, not what they look like. My crime is that of outsmarting you, something that you will never forgive me for.

I am a hacker, and this is my manifesto. You may stop this individual, but you can’t stop us all… after all, we’re all alike.

That short essay/text was “The Hacker Manifesto” and this “We the Web Kids manifesto” did the exact same thing

Brilliantly written and conceived, and though a lot shorter than the first one it conveys everything that this generation, and I’d love to include myself in that too, is all about.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

Oh for crying out loud. How convenient! "We're smart without having to be, you know, smart!"

You sound like Plato in Phaedrus complaining about the evils of this new-fangled ?reading and writing? technology, that would

create forgetfulness in the learners? souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

A possible companion piece?

The future of work and money are huge subjects, so I won’t begin to explore them here. But there are entire websites devoted to them. I’d say we are in the midst of a world change as significant as the Industrial Revolution and we don’t have it all sorted out yet. And then if you toss in climate change and the possibility that life on the planet will change in huge ways, there’s a lot to contemplate.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Another companion piece?

In other posts I have suggested that the privacy fight will turn into an extension of the piracy fight because some (perhaps many) of those who want the Internet to be free, also want to avoid being tracked for marketing purposes. Here’s a very recent exploration of that.

Advertising and the health of the internet ? The New Inquiry: “But one might argue that the fact that it seems as though we can?t have an internet not fueled by advertising is a sign that the internet is already unhealthy, sick unto death.”

Chargone (profile) says:


ehh, doesn’t really annoy me, but i do pick up on that sort of thing easily.

though apparently not this particular example. seems weird to talk about the physical as ‘analog’ because to my mind analog is related to analogy, one thing is representative of the other… and the physical world, as a rule, isn’t, if you get my meaning. on the other hand i somehow have no problem with the non-physical (virtual? or is that also misapplied?) being termed ‘digital’… perhaps because it is built rather directly out of numbers? then again, so is the physical world if you break it down far enough. i dunno.

Chargone (profile) says:

A possible companion piece?

among other things, check out the price of silver.

in the last 5 or so decades the price has skyrocketed.

Some of that is from more uses for it being found.

most is from financial dicking around crashing the value of various currencies.

(it’s actually got to the point where, if you buy silver and wait five to ten years, you’ll actually come out Ahead on the whole inflation thing… depending on the tax structure in your locality, of course. on the other hand there’s Very little point in long term saving with banks, as unless you’re already earning enough as to render it irrelevant your savings get eaten by inflation as well. investing, maybe, or buying a safe and some silver, but not saving cash at banks. (also, a lot of setups where you buy various valuable things don’t actually give you the thing, just a theoretical share of ownership of the quantity Supposedly sitting in a bank vault somewhere)

and it only gets more complicated from there.

Chargone (profile) says:


*briefly considers the fact that his maths classes always assumed you had a calculator when it came to trigonometry or long division and that they were required equipment for some assesments*

mark me down as one of those intelligent people with a terrible memory. (i have had untold tests at various points tell me the former and the latter is simply a fact of my life).

i have a whole host of other contributing issues, of course, but this one is one of the more noticeable reasons i never did end up going to university. (also, good luck getting anywhere in this country’s education system if your learning style isn’t geared towards lectures or text books. at least if you’re more academically inclined. (also, level of education seems to have less and less to do with whether one can find a job or not as time goes on, though there are fields where this does not hold.))

Chargone (profile) says:

Oh for crying out loud. How convenient! "We're smart without having to be, you know, smart!"

there’s a reason for that:

it’s exactly the same damn thing.

(save, perhaps, that writing alone may slightly encourage accepting the author as an authority, while the internet would tend to discourage this tendancy a bit. not enough to affect most people’s natural inclination, but i think it’s there for those few who fall into border zones on this sort of thing.)

AB says:


LOL My apologies, I was actually remembering the time in the 70’s (or was it the 80’s?) when the schools (or at least my local schools) actually decided to put calculators in the hands of their grade 3-7 students because they felt it was more important for the kids to learn how to use a basic (no, we aren’t even talking about scientific calculators here) calculator then how to actually do the math. At higher math levels that does indeed change as the calculator turns from a simple math tool into a much more complex research tool.

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