``I am Spartacus''
Stand up for freedom

The Problem

Many people are in favor of free speech/information/software, and many people are harmed by various forms of censorship and suppression of ideas. But the burden of promoting and preserving these freedoms falls disproportionately on a few leaders who create ideas that annoy the powerful.

The Movie

In the classic movie, Spartacus (who looked a lot like Kirk Douglas) took the lead to free the whole community of Roman slaves. When the Roman powers closed in to punish him, all of his followers stood up and said, ``I am Spartacus.'' Well, I don't want to push the analogy too much further, because the Romans killed them all. But the sight of thousands standing up to share the burden with Spartacus was moving and effective.

Actually, I liked the ``I am Spartacus'' scene in ``Bleacher Bums'' even more.

The Proposal

I propose a campaign, called ``I am Spartacus,'' to share with creators of ideas the burden of censorship and suppression. This campaign calls for some courage from participants, but the worst consequences will fall somewhat short of extermination by the Romans. The basic idea is to create a huge number of mirrors of information that is the target of censorship or suppression, with campaigners publicly acknowledging responsibility for these mirrors. Software protocols, such as Gnutella and FreeNet, can help disseminate information so widely that it is difficult or impossible to suppress. The ``I am Spartacus'' campaign will add moral force to such technical end runs.


In principle, all we need to do to implement my proposal is to individually make copies of our favorite suppressed items, and display links to them openly and shamelessly under the title, ``I am Spartacus.'' In order to spread the campaign effectively, we probably need a few upgrades:

  1. A minimal agreement on rules of inclusion. It's easy to favor free information in general, and then somebody says, ``But what about child pornography.'' Or instructions for terrorists, or ... The campaign should be as open as possible to various sorts of information, without letting truly reprehensible causes divert its moral resources. Perhaps there could be a small committee to vet items, with each participant exercising veto power on her own mirror.

  2. Software to make mirror administration real easy. Preferably, as easy as participating in SETI. Perhaps Gnutella and/or FreeNet can help.

  3. A cool logo.

Initial Contribution

So, to get the ball rolling, here is some banned software:

Last modified: Wed Sep 13 10:22:09 CDT 2000 by Mike O'Donnell (claiming to be Spartacus)