[ The following text is taken from Satya’s answers in reply to Ivan Pardo (designer of the excellent Buycott app) about the application WikiTerms is aiming to create. As this explanation provides a comprehensive over view of WikiTerms’ analysis and objectives, I thought I would post it up here. ]
WikiTerms is a small NGO, with particular legal expertise in the area of abuses of government power and human rights. We are committed to the Occupy movement. WikiTerms was formed in 2010 to work out practical solutions to abuses of power by corporations and government, through direct action.
Our analysis is that these abuses of power are only possible because of the one-sided (unilateral) nature of the standard contract of sale for goods and services. Most people do not look here for solutions, and this is one of the reasons for the repeated failure of protest movements. You have to deal with causes, not effects. These contracts are being made millions of times a second. They are the building blocks of all economic activity. If you like, they are the DNA of the political landscape. Historically, when these types of contracts predominate, as they do now, they are always accompanied by economic injustice and political tyranny.
As I have written in my article about the lessons from the protest movement in Egypt:
"This little legal device is everywhere. You use it a hundred times a day. In the national economy it is happening millions of times a second. On the national scale, this link joins three great entities or ‘Estates’ together - The People - The Wealth Generating Organizations (Firms, Corporations) and The Government. This link is the basic unit of state power. At the moment, because the link malfunctions, it joins these three into an unworkable relationship, which causes ever intensifying strife and injustice.
Although this link is tiny, because it is the basic building block of the state, it is atomic. Change this and everything across the social, political and economic spectrum changes with it. And this malfunctioning link, is a problem which has a hundred thousand hydra like heads, manifesting themselves as poverty, violence, industrial pollution, inequality, the misdirection of wealth, climate change and every abuse of collected wealth that you can think of.
This default bargain between organised wealth and the people in the street, defines the relationship between these three estates. At the moment this bargain is a one sided agreement. If you like, it is a top down agreement. The ‘top’ dictates the terms of the agreement to the ‘bottom’. The bank tells you the deal, you can take it or leave it, but they do not allow you to change it. The telephone company tells you the deal, you can take it or leave it, but you cannot change it. The petrol company tells you the deal, you can take it or leave it, but you cannot change it. So when your bank uses your wealth to bankrupt the entire financial system and throw millions of people out of work or out of their homes, it could do so only because it had your wealth. And when the telephone company gives your data to a tyrant, and you are arrested in the middle of the night for disagreeing with the government, you paid for it, but had no say in how the money was used (Iran. Nokia Seimens 2010). And when the petrol company took your money and started a war in which hundreds of thousands of people died (Iran 1952, Iran-Iraq 1980-8, Iraq 2003) or when, as with the government of Nigeria, the petrol company decided to insert its people into key positions in government (Shell 2010) or have political opponents executed by the government on false charges ( Ken Saro-Wiwa 1995) it did so with the power it got from your money - about which you had no say. You, the people, powered it through your wealth, but had no say in how your wealth was used by the company.
All this power scales up from individual payments, and translates into the huge manifestations of political power of the state. It is impossible to say where the border is between the corporations and the state. They are two faces of the same thing. The difference is only in words. You only have to look at the involvement of corporations in the activities of the NSA in the US, to see this in action. As your corporations are so will your government be and vise-versa.
As this power scales up from individual payments and translates into the huge manifestations of political power of the state, if the control of each unit of that power is given to one side, as it is by the default contract, then the power amassed will also be like that. The fact that Government is uncontrollable democratically, is due to this one sided contract, which gives one sided control of power.”
Our solution is two-fold:
(1) That users of corporations should be enabled to replace the corporation’s one-sided contract with a new one, incorporating the user’s own standard terms and conditions and
(2) That users should be provided with a web & mobile application for delivering these terms and conditions to the corporations and enforcing the corporation’s acceptance of them through the action of a collective boycott by the corporation’s user-base (customers).
Our principal work has been to investigate and then draft up, what these terms and conditions should require of the corporations, in order to prevent the misuse of power by government and by corporations (inside of and outside of government).
These terms and condition as we have drafted them, do three things:
Firstly they radically transform the entire modus operandi of the corporations by changing their relationship to their customers on the one hand, and their relationship to government on the other.
Secondly they enable protest movements like those against Monsanto or Koch etc, to defeat these corporations rapidly and effectively, and convert these corporations into a benign organisations.
Thirdly these terms and conditions enable protest movements like those we have seen in Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey, the US and Europe, to control an abusive government without bloodshed (or the kick back of recriminatory laws) and bring in changes which the political process is deadlocked to achieve - these are areas like the NSA, Climate Change etc.
This is possible because of the particular nature of these terms and conditions. The user contract requires the corporation to stream specific data into a public end-user network. This data shows to end-users. inter alia
(1) All political connections, future meetings, donations to political parties, political agents, or governments or contracts etc.
(2) Any environmental or ethically controversial investments or projects.
(3) The corporation’s entire supply and distribution chain. This supply & distribution chain is really the holy grail of boycott movements, because having this data would enable the end users to lock down the entire operation of a non compliant corporation, as you will see from the next paragraph.
These terms and conditions also require the corporation not trade with any organization which has not signed up to the terms and conditions, or which is not abiding by them.
As each corporation and business accepts the contract this produces a domino effect of “greening” the economic and political world, and transforming the harmful increase-profit-increase-demand based economy into a collaborative needs based economy.
In essence what this new user contract does is replicate the movement of exploited working people into contracting-groups we now call unions. Today the power gradient runs not from working people to employers, but from ordinary consumers into corporations. Now as then technology is key. The amazing turn of events that occurred with the creation of labour unions in the late 19th and early 20th century, became possible through technology. There you had terrible injustice imposed on a disunited section of the population by “organised money” through one of these one-sided or ‘single-voice’ agreements. There it was the contract of employment that was one-sided.
The power to impose these one sided contracts comes from the relative high degree of unity of the one side and the degree of disunity of the other side. This gives rise to inequalities of contracting power. If you go to a bank and say I want to contract with you on my own terms and conditions, they will say “Go away” - because you do not have the power of contract. But if the 30,000 people use the same terms & conditions, that bank will listen.
So, when working people organised themselves into labour unions the contracting power of the working people increased to the point where they could force the organised employers to accept the new two sided agreements about working conditions, hours and wages.
Technology allowed this to happen. Then it was innovations of the postal service, the telegraph, and the growth of literacy, that allowed those unions to form. Today it is the internet, and particularly social media that is changing the balance.
Here today we are in exactly the same type of conflict that our grandfathers and great grandfathers fought so hard to win. As in the past, our situation will change when a new kind of ‘union’ comes into being to mirror the degree of organisation of the corporations.
This change cannot come about through the organisation we call government. We can expect active opposition from government. No alternative change is possible at all through government because it is the other face of the commercial interests. This new uniification has to be the concerted action of The People as buyers of the products of the corporations because it is these people who are the de facto financiers and power supply of the corporate government.
The formation of this union is a natural turn of events. It will happen. The only question is how fast will it happen, how much misery and injustice and war it will take to rectify the balance.
This application to deliver the new contract, and stream the data that comes back in compliance with the contract, is vital because people need a way to act that actually works. Most of what we can see in the way of protest merely intensifies a vicious circle between the streets and government. The outcomes here are civil wars like Syria or perhaps Egypt, or deep surveillance states like Iran and the US, because the economies are geared only to work in that direction. We have to change this dynamic and changing this essential link in the fabric of power and politics will do that.
(We are working on the design of the web software & the mobile app for this network )