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I am an ambassador for OneWebDay, an annual effort to:

focus attention on a key internet value (this year, online participation in democracy)

focus attention on local internet concerns (connectivity, censorship, individual skills)

create a global constituency that cares about protecting and defending the internet

I got online in 1994 because a parent at my high school worked for UUNet and donated a connection to our school. We had one computer in the corner of the lab with access, not to the “web” (cause that didn’t quite exist), but to the “Internet.”

There were no graphics, just amber text on a black background. The browser, as it was, was a piece of software called Lynx. You launched it by typing the word “lynx” at the prompt and pressing “carriage return.” Remember carriage return yall? That’s from typewriter days!

Today, we’re using the Internet as a platform for every human endeavor, but the political is where my passion lies. I take a wide interpretation of politics. Elections are politics. Justice is politics. Media is politics. We have within our reach the ability to upend the traditional flow of power, and this gets me excited.

We’ve seen it in just providing access to information. Projects like the Sunlight Foundation’s Congresspedia or give regular citizens access to information traditionally reserved for the small group of folks who use that information advantage to maintain their power advantage.

We’ve seen it in collective research projects like the Clinton Attacks Obama Wiki or collective action projects like Senator Obama – Please Vote NO On Telecom Immunity (a group set up on Obama’s own empowering website).

Leutisha Stills, a fellow blogger at Jack and Jill Politics, and I had a great talk recently about her work on the Congressional Black Caucus report card and CBC Monitor. Not only do we have an increasing number of citizens learning what their representatives are up to and how they’re voting, but this information can then be used to hold that leadership accountable. Leutisha showed me multiple cases of low-performing CBC members whose grades encouraged primary challengers which in turn forced a change in behavior on the part of the rep. We’re lookin at you Ed Towns (big up Kevin Powell). Stay tuned for the next report card due out in September!

I want to thank Susan Crawford and everyone at OneWebDay for running this great program and inviting me to be a part of it. Now I open it up to you. Generally, what do you value most about the Internet? Specifically, how has it affected your participation in democracy?

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