Please Add Your Voice to the Mozilla Worldview Project

worldview
global-announcements

(Jfinette) #1

[Posting on behalf of Mitchell Baker]

Hello there,

Earlier this year I began the Mozilla Worldview Project. We set out to identify whether there are key principles about the online world Mozilla seeks to build that aren’t clearly stated in the Mozilla Manifesto. Topics such as “healthy global communities, multiculturalism, inclusion, multiple perspectives, and collaboration” which are key aspects of Mozilla’s worldview. However, we have not set them out officially as part of who we are, what we stand for or how we describe ourselves publicly.

Since then, many Mozillians have participated in helping develop principles about these aspects which may be potential additions to the Mozilla Manifesto. Your perspectives, comments and ideas are important and valued - we’d like to invite you to add your voice if you haven’t done so already.

You will find links to 5 other Discourse threads, one for each proposed principle and a suggestion which was added during our review phase . You will also find the raw feedback we collected for each principle at a recent Mozilla All Hands, which might spark a thought. We would appreciate your comments on the Discourse threads directly.

Principle #1 - An internet that is “Open and accessible to all” means a deep commitment to inclusion, non-discrimination and opportunity for all in online life.

Principle #2 - Cross-cultural collaboration is fundamental to addressing global topics such as the Internet and the Internet experience.

Principle #3 - Encouraging and integrating multiple viewpoints is necessary to develop healthy cross-cultural communities and a sustainable global Internet.

Principle #4 - Respect, tolerance, and human decency are necessary aspects of an online experience that is open and accessible to all.

In addition during our project review phase another suggestion was made on on “Developing mechanisms…”

If you could review over the next 14 days that would be very helpful.
Thank you for your time in engaging in this important project.

Mitchell

:: This is post 1/6. Click the links in the post above to see a discourse thread for each principle."


Additional note: 9/11/17

Hello everyone,

A quick follow-up to my last note.

I thought it might be helpful to add a bit more context, and share this visual which illustrates the connections between the Mozilla Mission, the Worldview Project, the CPG and True North.
(A big thanks to George Roter for his early version of this image, from which I’m borrowing copiously).

If you’d like to read more about these connections you can find an explanation here. It’s 7 paragraphs, so not long to read. In addition to the Mozilla Worldview Project feedback, I would like to invite you to further share your thoughts particularly around this visual, connections and how they relate to the mission.

Lastly, We have a brief video introduction of The Mozilla Worldview Project - please take a look!

Thanks!
Mitchell


(Myk Melez) #2

I find all these principles sensible, although I also struggle to differentiate them from each other, i.e. to find the specific idea in each one that distinguishes it from the general idea that a healthy and safe internet that is “open and accessible to all” requires the set of attributes described in the various principles, including a commitment to inclusion, cross-cultural collaboration, encouraging multiple viewpoints, and tolerance.

(This may be simply a lack of contextual understanding on my part; I haven’t read the raw feedback from which these principles were derived.)

Have we given thought to the conclusions we would draw from these principles about changes we would want to make to the internet, and how we might go about making those changes? It isn’t necessary to do so, but I find that it’s useful when reasoning about principles to consider their practical implications.

For example, it strikes me that an internet that conforms to these principles would require:

  1. some form of active governance over internet activities and individual/organizational behavior on the internet (as opposed to a laissez faire approach in which “anything goes” and individuals/organizations are expected to self-organize rules and enforcement mechanisms for behavior in the activities they control);
  2. governance that is global and public in nature (as opposed to national—via laws and regulatory agencies—which is public but not global; or corporate governance—policies and procedures—which may be international but is private).

And thus a change Mozilla might want to make is to establish/strengthen international, non-governmental bodies (perhaps along the lines of IANA/ICANN and IETF/ISOC) that develop and enforce rules and policies for individual behavior in internet activities.

I’m curious to hear what others think the practical consequences of these principles would be.


Weekly Reps Call - 29 March 2018 - Special Guest - Mitchell Baker!
(Gerv) #3

Hi Mitchell,

I have some thoughts about what it would mean to adopt these principles as part of the Manifesto.

The addition of these principles to the Manifesto would set in concrete a shift from Mozilla being about a certain type of technical Internet towards Mozilla being also about a certain type of social Internet. While the original ten principles of the Manifesto tend to emphasise technical, structural and governance aspects of the Internet we want to see (open, accessible, secure, interactive and shapeable, interoperable, transparent, participatory in governance, with commercial involvement, for the public benefit), the new principles emphasise how we would like people to behave on the Internet (inclusive, non-discriminatory, cross-cultural, understanding, respectful, tolerant, decent).

However, I’m not seeing this significant shift in our focus as something which has been recognised and discussed as such, at least in Mozilla’s public discourse. I think your proposals for additions to the Manifesto are a good time to do that.

Another way of looking at the difference, or shift, is that Mozilla currently has a set of technical values it would like to see in the Internet (and around which there is consensus from all current Mozillians, rather by definition); adopting these principles would mean it also had a set of social values it would like to see in the Internet.

Now, when you choose a set of values, you are making a choice - even if you don’t realise it because you think those values are universally important and so surely everyone must agree. But there are many “value” words which everyone would agree on the importance of, but which people understand and interpret in very different ways. And while people might agree in the abstract on the validity of a certain value, they may differ on how they feel it interacts with other important values they hold, and how to resolve conflicts. And so your articulation of your value set may not ring true for them.

One of the features of successful coalitions in a common cause (of which Mozilla is one) is that people agree on the core goals or beliefs of the movement but agree to disagree on everything else. This means, the more things you add to the list of core goals or beliefs, the smaller the pool of people from which your coalition will draw. A significant reduction in the size of our potential talent pool would not, I suggest, be a good outcome for Mozilla.

I feel that Mozilla has been and is a powerful force for a certain kind of technical Internet. That’s where our consensus lies, it’s where the sweet spot of our work is, and it’s a big enough task for us to be fully occupied with it. And our current mission scope finds supporters among a very diverse set of people and groups - politically, socially, geographically and in many other ways.

To use one final analogy: there is a principle in computer science called “separation of mechanism and policy”[0]. It states that the parts of a system which define how you do something (mechanism) should not dictate or overly restrict the policies which define what you do (policy). The current principles are about Internet mechanism. The new four principles are about Internet behavioural policy. I’m worried that this change, which has Mozilla working on both, would encourage us to bend mechanisms for policy ends, violating the separation and putting our role as a powerful force for the right mechanisms in jeopardy.

Respectfully,

Gerv

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Separation_of_mechanism_and_policy


(Blair MacIntyre) #4

Without getting into too long a discussion, I want to say a few things in reply.

First, I don’t see the current manifesto as only focused on “technical, structural and governance”: certainly part (or most) might be, but principles like “The Internet must enrich the lives of individual human beings” and “Individuals must have the ability to shape the Internet and their own experiences on it” (for example) (drawn from https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/about/manifesto/) do not sound limited to “technical, structural and governance” concepts.

Second, I personally do not support the implicit stance of many computing professionals that we can separate technology from how it is used, that we are only responsible for the technical/structural/governance aspects, and that we don’t need to concern ourselves with non-technical responsibilities, ethical uses of technology and other moral imperatives. We are past the time where we get to “build the bomb” (e.g., social media) and then throw up our hands and say “it’s not our fault how it’s used” (e.g., “blame the algorithms”, accept the end of privacy, etc.).

Professions like medicine (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippocratic_Oath) and Engineering (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engineer’s_Ring) have long coupled moral imperatives with the more “technical” aspects of engaging in their profession. And our computing professional societies have adopted codes of conduct (e.g., such as ACM @ http://www.acm.org/about-acm/acm-code-of-ethics-and-professional-conduct and IEEE @ https://www.ieee.org/about/ethics.html) that include similar goals. Over the past few years, there are increasing calls from various corners for computing professionals to further develop and abide by such codes of ethics, behavior and responsibility, including principles that feel very much in line with these new principles.

So, I personally welcome principles that extend the Manifesto in these ways.


(Gerv) #5

Neither do I support such a view. The question is not “should computing professionals be concerned with moral imperatives”. The question is whether Mozilla, in particular, should try and shape the Internet in service of a particular set of social goals that some proportion of Mozillians hold. The alternative being, perhaps, that individual Mozillians join organizations who are promoting the social goals they support, in addition to their involvement with Mozilla, and work on those goals through those channels. This would allow diverse views on exactly what those social goals should be to co-exist at Mozilla, while still giving everyone an opportunity to promote their particular view.

The Internet is not a “space”, but a very large collection of spaces. Having a set of social goals for one of or a set of those spaces is entirely reasonable. Having a single set of social goals for the entire Internet worldwide seems to me to be (intentionally or not) hubristic, at risk of being disrespectful to the wide variety of cultures around the world, and contrary to our support for the principle of user choice.


(Blair MacIntyre) #6

Fair enough, glad to hear it.

But, the question of

seems to me to be a straw-man sort of question. Mozilla already “tries to shape the Internet in service of a particular set of social goals”, and any changes to the Mission would very likely (because people are complex) result in a new Mission “that some proportion of Mozillians hold” (and by implication, some don’t).

So, if you instead asked me “should Mozilla be able to update the Mission, to clarify it in light of the evolution of the internet and the impact it has had on society”, I would say yes. What to do about “the proportion of Mozillians who don’t agree with these new principles” is something I don’t have an answer for.


(Gerv) #7

You say:

but I don’t think that’s all the true in practice, at least based on the current manifesto. You gave the example of:

but I don’t think we’ve ever decided to do something for this rather nebulous reason. Now, one might argue that the new principles are similarly high-level, but the discussion documents from the All Hands (linked from the individual threads linked above) have “explanations”, which show what sort of directions Mozilla might move in if these principles were adopted, and they are more specific.

To take an example, the explanation for Principle 2 says: “This principle allows us to talk about the importance of healthy communities and of people from different views working together. It allows us to counter the ideas of nationalism and ‘more for me, less for you.’”

I think that “countering the ideas of nationalism” is a significant extension of scope for the Mozilla project, and a good example of a direction that we should not be going in. This would clearly move Mozilla into the sphere of politics and political partisanship and, however much many or most Mozillians might agree that nationalism is a negative force (I would be one), Mozilla is not a vehicle for righting every wrong in the world. Attempting to do so would not only be a distraction but in my view would hinder our efforts in other areas, both technical and policy. Many Mozillians in our global community are intensely proud of their countries. Who would be the judge of what was and was not acceptable? Why cause that unnecessary division?

As another example, the explanation for Principle 1 says: “This principle allows us to talk about inclusion, non-discrimination in online life, and intentionally making the Internet a welcoming space for everyone.”

I do not believe it’s possible to make “the Internet” a welcoming space for everyone. Firstly, “The Internet” is not a space, it is a large collection of spaces. And it’s not possible to make any single space welcoming to absolutely everyone - humans are too prone to disagree (I would say, sinful) for that to be possible. So if you try and make the Internet “a welcoming space for everyone”, you inevitably end up redefining “everyone” to exclude people whose behaviour or words you don’t like, and aiming for a result which excludes some people entirely. While that may be an acceptable solution for a single community (it’s fine for a discussion board to decide to ban those who e.g. make ageist comments), it’s not acceptable for the entire Internet; I don’t believe anyone should have the power to say “you don’t get to be on the Internet”. The CEO of Cloudflare has written a very insightful blog post noting how worried we should all be that he seems to have that power, no matter how vehemently he or we may disagree with the views of the organization involved in the incident.

Such globally-enforced norms would also potentially be in conflict with the values of the new principles themselves - multiple viewpoints, cross-cultural collaboration, and inclusion. There are many viewpoints which are currently widely held which, some years ago, were considered aberrant. Social change relies on space to say what is sometimes deeply uncomfortable to hear.

In addition, the mechanisms needed to effectively enforce such norms Internet-wide would be a surveillance and monitoring infrastructure more powerful than any the world has ever seen. Given that Mozilla is strongly in favour of user privacy and security, I do not think this is a direction Mozilla should go in or a goal we should aim for either.


(Mitchell) #8

One thing that’s become clear to me is a lack of motivation for building an open system – even the Web – that is good for criminals, trolls, government and commercial stalkers, a few near-monopolists, and those who enjoy the exercise of violence, and bad for the rest of us. The Internet today still has great traits, but we see some of these other traits develop.

I too am not sure if I agree that technology and values can or should be split. But in any case, in response to Gerv’s original question - yes, I see aspirations for mozilla about building technology that has certain values related to human experience built into it.