Back in 1996, when the World Wide Web was just beginning to revolutionize the ways human beings could communicate, many of those helping to build the emerging online tech industry were filled with a boundless sense of optimism.
The core of this optimism was the confidence that the internet could be a truly open space for freedom of speech. It was an ethos embodied that year by a much-circulated and somewhat sly “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” by the cyberlibertarian essayist and Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow. He declared that the legal concepts of the world of matter, “concepts of property, expression, identity,” simply did not apply to the internet, a virtually pure digital space for freedom of speech beyond the “governments of the industrial world, you weary giants of flesh and steel.”
“We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or