How To Get Elected Officials To Actually Hear Our Worries About Censorship: Speak Up!

from the speak-up dept

I already mentioned Rep. Lofgren's talk at the Section 230 Symposium from the High Tech Law Institute at the University of Santa Clara on Friday, but wanted to do a separate post on another point that Lofgren raised. EFF's Cindy Cohn asked Lofgren a simple question towards the end of Lofgren's talk, questioning what we in Silicon Valley could actually do so that folks in Washington DC actually understand these issues.

Lofgren, at first, seemed unsure that anything could be done, noting that those with lots of money and hired lobbyists in DC still get heard much more than the ordinary citizen, but after talking for a bit, she did make a point clear, and it was: we need to speak up. She pointed out that in this day, a congressional rep hearing from 200 constituents (she suggests physical letters) is something that gets attention, and gets Representatives to pay attention right away.

I know that many around here are cynical about the political process -- and I'd include myself in that description. We've seen way too many ridiculously bad laws passed by Congress to protect this or that special interest. Our government too often seems to take direction (if not dictation) directly from corporate interests. However, Lofgren does have a point: people really do need to speak up when they hear of serious problems such as domain seizures, copyright expansion and other problems.

The domain seizures, in particular seem to have received very little attention in the press. I spoke to a reporter at the event who said that his editor just didn't think it was a topic anyone cared about. That's scary. We're talking about wholesale censorship by the US government -- almost certainly in violation of basic free speech and due process rules. And it's all being done by a group within the US government who's supposed to be "protecting our borders." It seems reasonable to question why this group is involved in straight up censorship of websites. But it's not going to happen if people don't speak up.


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    iamtheky (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 4:26pm

    in this day, a congressional rep reading physical letters from 200 constituents that were not boilerplate, and realizing the common underlying issue, is something that would get my attention.

    Being able to then do anything actionable with the data would be secondary, but equally amazing.

     

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    Chargone (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 4:29pm

    hear =/= listen, sadly.

     

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      DJ (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 5:12pm

      Re:

      While I cannot discount that, it does need to be said that there are some who don't present their arguments constructively (I know I know, but it's true).
      Regardless of which side of the issue you support, if you are going to write your Congressman, emotionally charged statements do not help; more likely, they often hinder.

      So...even when hear does = listen, sometimes the argument is not exactly a swaying one.

       

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        Jose_X, Mar 7th, 2011 @ 6:05pm

        Re: Re:

        First, every tick means that they have to find a way to address the issue (eg, "people might not vote for me next time if I ignore this issue and don't calm them down").

        Second, among the great comments ignored, the more there are, the greater the odds a staff member will hit upon one on a given day. If they weather is just right.

        Third, if they eventually hit upon one and they save old emails, they might be intrigued and search back to see other things you have said, or they might search to see what everyone who has given an opinion on the topic (search phrases) thinks.

        In light of this, we should try to sway the wider population and encourage them to send in comments. [thanks Mike]

        And if anyone is looking for a business, consider gathering good comments (eg, CC-by-sa) and sell a product on your website where people can pick the letters they like, the style, and other trimmings, plus add their own words and signature, then pay. You then print that out using your fancy publishing or adding whatever else belongs there (eg, a stuffed bear or box of candy), and ship it to the destination (eg, the Representative the buyer picked).

        This business enables someone to focus on this issue and develop expertise and brand, making it easier for others to spend some money to make a point. Maybe a particular theme per style of letter.

        Of course, lobbyists could be doing this as well, but.. The advantage is that people still can customize. The idea itself will spread. And most people cannot afford lobbyists so get 0 representation there. By lowering the bar, you now have some representation that catches attention. We want the good ideas recycled and made known and want money to be forced to chase after citizens' hearts and minds rather than to give plane trips to elected officials.

         

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    blah, Mar 7th, 2011 @ 4:31pm

    Some help for those who don't know where to look

    Need to know how? Here's a quick bit of info:

    http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/uscongress/a/letterscongress.htm

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2011 @ 9:08pm

      Re: Some help for those who don't know where to look

      Yup, join the millions of other whiners sending mail to their members of congress, where you will be filtered, ignored, and finally will receive a form letter and an 8 x 10 glossy picture signed by the member.

      Go for it. It really helps.

       

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      Sean T Henry (profile), Mar 8th, 2011 @ 8:10am

      Re: Some help for those who don't know where to look

      Calling your rep to have a note placed on there desk works well.

       

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    velox (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 4:58pm

    Writing Letters to the Supreme Court

    I didn't know people did this --> The following is from the link posted by blah:
    "U.S. Supreme Court
    Contact Information - US Supreme Court
    The Justices do not have email addresses, but they do read letters from citizens."

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2011 @ 5:38pm

    The press sees the Internet as competition, anything that's a detriment to their competition is favorable to the press.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2011 @ 9:08pm

      Re:

      Also, the fact that the MSM ignores, and hence censors, information about the domain seizures (or, to the extent that they do cover it, they're very one sided) is evidence of censorship. Censorship is real, this news never makes its way onto cableco infrastructure or broadcasting stations at least partly because the govt grants monopolies on those information distribution channels and the monopolists who control those channels have an interest in censoring this from the public. The government, in effect, is responsible for distorting the free market in a way that results in the censorship of this information from the public. Who is to say they are not trying the same thing to the Internet. Of course they are. If this weren't true, if they were really interested in the free flow of information and the protection of free speech, their first course of action would be to remove or correct the system that they set up that results in the censorship of this information from so many information distribution channels. But they are doing no such thing, instead, all of their actions seem to be an effort to add more censorship to the Internet.

       

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        Persephone (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 10:28pm

        free speech?

        Yeah, yeah, yeah. All this carping about free speech, how about admitting that unlimited free speech has unleashed a tidal wave of hate groups onto the net in numbers never before seen.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2011 @ 5:38am

          Re: free speech?

          Perhaps because that hate is well justified?

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2011 @ 5:41am

          Re: free speech?

          It was the government imposed lack of free speech all these years that made it much easier for the corporations and the government to pass so many laws that are worthy of being hated. We have a right to free speech, we have a right to hate our government and big corporations when they do something wrong, in fact, it is our duty to criticize them when they do something wrong, the government has absolutely no right to restrict our free speech or to tell me that I can't use public airwaves how I see fit.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2011 @ 5:45am

            Re: Re: free speech?

            and besides, no one exercises their hateful use of free speech more than IP maximists, who are hateful regardless. See, for instance, this post. So Persephone is complaining about a problem that he's actively contributing to. Hypocrite.

             

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          vivaelamor (profile), Mar 8th, 2011 @ 7:07am

          Re: free speech?

          "how about admitting that unlimited free speech has unleashed a tidal wave of hate groups onto the net in numbers never before seen."

          What makes you think that free speech has been the cause of hate groups? Sure, it's the reason they're allowed to have websites, but then it's the reason we're allowed to tell everyone why what they say on those websites is wrong.

           

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    monkyyy, Mar 7th, 2011 @ 10:07pm

    ive wrote before, and got back a letter that must have been written by a lobbyist(it was on the internet kill switch, so no facts or links, or quotes from "trusted" experts, not even a very misleading stat)

     

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    Jay (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 10:44pm

    Welp, I have Spring Break and 3 days. I'm calling my rep starting tomorrow and asking him about this. I'll tell about the results.

     

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    rjk (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 10:47pm

    TED Talk: Political change with pen and paper

    Here's a short TED talk on how to get results when writing a letter to a politician.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/omar_ahmad_political_change_with_pen_and_paper.html

     

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      Jay (profile), Mar 8th, 2011 @ 1:28pm

      Re: TED Talk: Political change with pen and paper

      Thank you for posting this. I'm changing my way of discussion because that seems a lot better than becoming a constant nag.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2011 @ 4:09am

    I'm writing a certified letter to 10 congressmen today. I'm going to demonstrate how this blog tries to incite the electorate into thinking enforcing the law is censorship.

    Thanks for the great idea.

     

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    egbert, Mar 8th, 2011 @ 7:21am

    the biggest reason why people dont speak up, particularly if they have done so in the past is because politicians at all levels DONT take any notice of ordinary people. they dont have the money that the corporations have and therefore dont have the 'clout' that is required to get things changed or even to be listened to. the majority of politicians and governments are only interested in ordinary people when it comes to getting their votes. once they have them, out goes citizens opinions, fears, hopes and needs, in come the desires of big companies and mega-rich individuals! notice how it is the poor sections of society that are being hit at the moment, not those that 'have it all', to bail countries out of the financial crisis, that was caused by those 'that have it all' in the first place!

     

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    Matthew A. Sawtell (profile), Mar 8th, 2011 @ 8:18am

    Make sure you get your voice heard correctly...

    Folks, if you are going to talk - make sure you check which District you live to get the correct House Rep that is suppose to represent you. As for your State Senators, do take some time to compose something in your own voice about the subject.

    One other item of note... if you are not a registered voter, be not surprised if your voice/e-mail/letter gets "circular filed".

     

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    Jesse Townley (profile), Mar 8th, 2011 @ 12:47pm

    Yes, write letters!

    They DO notice actual letters written/typed by humans, not e-mails.

    If us little people DIDN'T make a stink a few years ago, no one except readers of blogs like this one would have even HEARD of "Net Neutrality," let alone have it covered by Presidents and Congress and major news outlets.

    Ditto the Low Power FM movement that grew out of pirate radio in the 1990s that the FCC finally had to admit existed and changed the rules to allow for LPFM stations across the country. That took lots of letters from all kinds of people. (Did it end up perfectly? No, but it's a lot better than it was)

    I'm not saying that corporate lobbyists don't have an inherent advantage, I'm saying that we have some juice IF we choose to use it.

    Cynicism is safe and often much funnier and entertaining than actually doing something constructive- I know from personal experience!

     

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