These are some of the core principles that motivate and guide the work of the Disintermedia collective:
- environmental integrity: the principle that this planet, its biosphere, and its incredibly diverse and complex ecosystems, were not designed to benefit humans, and have inherent value far beyond any utility value they might have for us. To protect the integrity of the biosphere, and its ability support complex multi-cellular life forms, is a form of self-defence, and a moral right of any person.
- nonviolence: the principle that all forms of violence take away people's basic rights and freedoms. Killing someone takes away their right to life. Threatening them with starvation or homelessness if they don't work for money takes away their labour rights, such as choosing where, when, and how to work, and for what kind of payment (if any).
- software freedom: the principle that violations of basic and important user rights are inherent in software being proprietary, and that all software should be licensed in a way that safeguard the four freedoms, as defined by Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation.
- net neutrality: the principle that all internet users and transactions should be treated equally, and without discrimination, by every intermediary involved in routing internet traffic
- open standards: the principle that the architecture of the internet, and subsystems like the web, should be kept open and uncapturable, by defining protocols that any software or organisation can implement without discrimination
- privacy: the principle that people and communities have a right to go about their private business without being subject to unwarranted surveillance, or unreasonable search and seizure, whether of their person, their homes and workplaces, or their belongings, including information about them. Neither governmental nor private entities should violate people’s privacy, whether actively, or passively.
- user trust: the principle that when a user installs software on their computer, or stores their information using a service running on someone else’s computer, they should be able to pick software/ service vendors that will not abuse the access this gives them to users’ information
- host responsibility: the principle that when entities are running infrastructure that potentially allows the violation of any of the above principles, every reasonable measure should be taken to prevent such violation, and certainly no action should be taken that facilitates it
- social enterprise: the principle that it’s possible to run businesses, and make a living as co-owners or employees, while making ethical consideration a higher priority than financial ones
- organisational integrity: the principle that if an entity makes claims and/ or promises, it’s actions should always be consistent with those claims and promises, or if not, it should explicitly and publicly disavow the claim or promise affected
- accurate promotion: the principle that entities offering goods and services to the public should use language which gives users an accurate overall impression of the nature of those goods or service, without having to research the details (eg one should not claim a food product is “organic” if only a small proportion of the ingredients were grown organically)
- full disclosure: the principle that people are entitled to know, for example, what ingredients are in food they are being served, or what they are agreeing to if they sign a legal contract or create a user account on a server
Every one of these principles is a generalization, and every one has exceptions. For example, most people accept that if police get a warrant from a judge to bug someone’s car, or use their mobile phone as a bug, then that’s a reasonable exception to the principle of privacy. Another example, if a website is subject to a DDOS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack, nobody is obliged to treat those packets equally to those of genuine users, and measures taken to prevent DDOS may be reasonable exceptions to the principle of net neutrality.
However, there are two key points about exceptions to ethical principles. They need to be very specific, and the onus is on those arguing for the exception to prove that it’s justified, on a case-by-case basis. If the police get a warrant to bug you, but find no evidence of any offence it was granted to investigate by the time the warrant runs out, they should have to apply for a new warrant from scratch. Otherwise such warrants risk becoming carte blanche permission to bug people for the rest of their lives, just because a police officer once claimed to be suspicious of them. Also, just because preventing DDOS is offered as a justification for net neutrality exception someone wants to use, that doesn't automatically mean that exception is justified. Using DDOS as the justification for a system that also catches TOR users engaged in normal user behaviour means the exception is not specific enough.