Can Reddit Write Legislation, Too? Proposes The 'Free Internet Act'

from the what-can't-it-do... dept

I have to admit that one of the more fun aspects of watching what has happened over the past few months with the SOPA/PIPA debate is watching the Reddit community jump on this issue… and evolve with it. The thing with the Reddit community isn’t just it’s sheer power as a large group of people who are more than willing to stand up for what they believe in, but their willingness to take on big challenges that most people would back away from. Not all of them work out, but as a community, they like to really jump into things and aim high. Such is the situation with the proposed plan to write a piece of legislation, The Free Internet Act, on Reddit. As an observer of these things, a reasonable first reaction is to chuckle a bit at what seems like a combination of both hubris and naivete that an online community (mostly of political novices) can create a reasonable piece of legislation. But… then you think of what else Reddit has done, and you begin to realize that if it can somehow pull this off — or at least influence the debate in a positive way, this could be amazing (even if it’s a long shot).

A specific sub-Reddit has been set up, where different people are discussing different thoughts on what such a bill might include and other issues related to the bill’s central concept: guaranteeing a free internet.

Again, there’s a big hill to climb here to make this into any sort of reality, but there’s something really amazing and compelling about this self-forming group taking the initiative to try to not just drive the debate, but to actually craft legislation that would protect internet freedom. As much as I’ve been impressed by the process of the Wyden/Issa proposed OPEN bill, in which they put it up on a platform that allowed the public to crowdsource thoughts on a bill, they still started with a bill suggested in Congress. What happens when a bill is crowdsourced from scratch? Possibly nothing at all, but as an experiment, it will be fascinating to watch…

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Comments on “Can Reddit Write Legislation, Too? Proposes The 'Free Internet Act'”

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Loki says:

The thing is, there are a lot more people with a good deal of political experience on Reddit than many people realize. Many of them have left politics simply because they were so disgusted by the process it has become.

I don’t really think it’s hubris nor naivete, but people who realize they can’t/couldn’t change the system from within now setting up competition to that system.

weneedhelp (profile) says:


The Conventions of a number of the States having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution.

We have reached this point again.

Greevar (profile) says:

Re: Free internet you say?

Are you suggesting we find a technical solution that prevents harm instead of forming a law that only punishes the bad actors after they’ve done harm? Crazy!

You’ve got the right idea there. Laws are mostly worthless because they require public support. If people don’t support the law, it may just as well be a recommendation. Laws will only be effective as the number of people that abide by them. A law that is supported by only 1% of the people it applies to will only be 1% effective and there isn’t a single law that is 100% effective (meaning that law is never broken).

The real solution to stopping censorship of the internet is to make it impossible to censor. An internet that can’t be censored is truly free.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think Reddit would first do better writing legislation that reduces copy protection lengths. Such an effort would receive a wide audience of support and would be much easier to implement and if they succeed such an effort would gain them a lot of notoriety and with this larger audience it would make their future efforts easier. You must start somewhere, lets start with the easy stuff that most can agree on first and then move up once you’ve gained support and a larger audience from your past accomplishments.

weneedhelp (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Sorry but once you have people’s attention you need to run with it. Shoot big. Because in a month or two PPL will go back to their tweets, tubes, books, and forget all about it.
I hope I am wrong. I hope users saw the back room dealings that will influence their lives and dont forget that there is a constant push to pass these kinds of laws. What we need to watch out for now is these provisions creeping into unrelated legislation a drop at a time. They have the time, money, and influence. They went for the major power grab and failed. They wont let it happen again.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I guess the point that I was making is that copy protection length reduction should be a separate act

A: since people may disagree on other aspects of the free internet act, those other aspects may make the act as a whole more difficult to get the public support necessary to pass it

B: Those other aspects distract from copy protection lengths reducing the impact that copy protection length reduction will have on the passage of the bill as a whole.

Melissa Ruhl (profile) says:

It sure seems like anything can happen now that we’ve seen legislation derailed by Internet activism. I was talking to my sister-in-law about SOPA/PIPA when she was here for Christmas about our frustrations regarding people’s ignorance of the bills. Within three weeks, intellectual property became a household issue. I think we could be in a brave new world of activism, which I could see reddit leading.

Anonymous Coward says:

I suggested this very concept a few days ago in another article. Glad to see someone is running with it. (Not to imply that I was the one that caused it.) As for getting things passed… If the legislation, once fleshed out online is sent to Congress with the same force that the protest was (ie. public cries FOR it) I think it might be easier to pass than some people may think.

Anonymous Coward says:

this is exactly what Wyden etc should be doing, not pissing about trying to make a previous piece of shit better! as long as it’s kept sensible and serious, perhaps he and his ilk can keep track of this, make suggestions and then submit it? would make such a change that a bill be introduced that comes from ‘the people’ instead of from those that are meant to represent the people BUT DONT!!! copyright industries, be prepared to eat your hearts out!!

Beta (profile) says:

O brave new world!

I always had a vague suspicion that something like this was possible. When I was involved in student activism, I felt that I was just adding one to the power base controlled by the student activist leaders –more of the self-promoting windbags I was trying to oppose– and that my own thoughts and opinions counted for exactly nothing once I was standing under a banner written by somebody else. Political parties were just the same. I grew slowly resigned to the idea that reason didn’t count for much against well-funded and well-advertised campaigns, but I couldn’t stop imagining a better way, a system in which one reasoned argument –from anyone!– could somehow defeat a million repetitions of an idiotic slogan. I didn’t know how to bring anything like that about, but I knew it wasn’t mathematically impossible.

Since I’ve been involved in the SOPA/PIPA fight, I feel for the first time in my life that I have political power.

Anonymous Coward says:

I was reading this subreddit when it was sort of developing last night.

I’ve been a long term member there and go pretty much every day to see what is happening. It’s so huge you can’t see everything there.

What amazes me in all this, is that you have the general run of internet users that are not very savvy, mixed in with some that are right down smart.

You have folks on there that are home makers, woodworkers, graphics artists wannabees, lawyers, scammers, trolls, you name it.

It reminds me of the Tyler Durden speech.

Liz (profile) says:

This is how a democratic republic should work. With people crafting laws, then passing them onto legislators for refinement and passage. It could add another layer to the Checks and Balances system, where the People and the Government are checked and balanced by each other.

We can’t have a pure democratic rule, otherwise we’d end up with mob rule. Those in the majority imposing their will on those in the minority.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It’s not really practical. Would you like rapists to write the laws on rape?

Most people seem up in arms that “big business writes the laws”, yet they want to have their own narrow view of the world prevail over everyone else. We elect people to write the laws, let them do their jobs.

The reddit thing is laughable, because it starts with “and we throw away all rights to content creators”, and that will just never fly.

Liz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Rapists writing laws on rape is like the MPAA and RIAA writing copyright laws. It’s a narrow segment of the population with a vested interest that screws over everyone else.

Yes, we elect people to do the legislation, however the big money are the ones that write and pay for those laws to become enacted. Then the rest of us pay for it after wards.

Just John (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Given that the law is suppose to represent the will of the people and what that society accepts as right or wrong, does that mean you are insinuating that either society or a majority of the people accept rape? Did you honestly just go there?

You, sir, are a perfect example of why I sometimes wonder if we should implement a right to breed law…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Yes, but it is suppose to represent the will of the majority of the people, not a few whiners on the internet. Will this law really reflect the desires of your granny watching Matlock on TV? Will it represent the will of artists, of ALL consumers, etc?

I doubt it.

The attempt is to come up with a way of saying “neener, neener, the internet has no laws!”. That just isn’t going to fly.

Just John (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Not sure what you are trying to get at.
Is there a point to your madness, or is the raven still perched upon your bust of Pallas just above your chamber door?

No one has claimed that they are writing laws on reddit that will become part of the law of the land.

They want to work on something that will help ensure the freedom of the internet. It would still need to follow the conventional methods of implementation.

All you are doing is claiming “Hey, normal people, you have no right to try to have input into our democracy”. Is this new message what you want to say? At least with the rapist response, I could laugh at you. Now I just want to pity you and the fact that you want to try to stop the democratic, free speech process because you feel those involved are “a few whiners on the internet”.

Beta (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

If the rapists were in the majority, our society would have bigger problems than legislative reform.

The rest of your post looks like straw man arguments, ending with “this new approach will never work”.

Is it my imagination, or are a lot of anonymous posts like this cropping up on this site since we humbled the old-school political system with our new approach a couple of weeks ago?

@carolv27 says:

naivete? Seriously?

You can say anything about reddit, but can’t call it’s members “political novices.” Reddit is a very opinionated community and there are many people with law degrees and familiar with political process willing to donate their time if there is a good cause.
As for the process — people suggesting legislation — it’s not that strange, some countries actually use it in their political process.


Anonymous Coward says:

What I think we need is to set a standard process for proposing legislation – a RFC of sorts – where an idea can be submitted and if it gets enough traction, it will be debated and refined online by the users of the system until it is ready to be submitted to Congress. Why limit this to one narrow law concerning the future of the Internet? Many including Mike have said before that the problem with the laws being made is the backroom deals and corruption that represents big money special interests instead of the people. So let’s fix the system to involve the people directly and cut out the special interests.

sheri says:

can reddit write legislation

The very existence and nature of reddiquette, especially the following notion:”Intelligent discourse requires a standard system of communication” (indicating an aspirational goal of intelligent discourse)puts the Reddit community miles ahead of our current community of congressional representatives. If the U.S. Congress had to abide by reddiquette they might occasionally get something done. Also, the values of the reddit community – as evidenced in reddiquette -make theirs a community of above average internet users in my opinion and I wouldn’t underestimate their capacity to produce high quality and professionally competetive work product.

Fede Heinz says:

Political novices crowdsourcing legislation

It’s been done before.

More than ten years ago, a group of people (mainly from Argentina, but also from other Spanish-speaking countries) used e-mail communications to draft a bill prohibiting the Public Administration from using non-free software on the grounds of preserving sovereignty.

We don’t seem to have done it too shoddily: the bill has since there not only been sponsored by many Argentine legislators from different parties (only to be stopped each time by the proprietary software lobby, of course), but also in other countries such as Per?, where it prompted the infamous Villanueva-Microsoft incident, and it’s even been translated to other languages and even recommended by the University of Masstricht as proposed legislation for all member states of the EU.

Jes Lookin says:

Some Simple Rules

For Copyright:
– All thing over 25 years old = public domain NOW
– Copyright is owned SOLELY by the work creator (he can subcontract independently after)
– Period is 10+10+5 = positive renewal twice by creator
– THAT IS IT – no Disney/Corporate BS
For Patents:
– Patent is owned SOLELY by the creator
– Product must be demonstrated and not composed of
obvious component uses (stupid SW patents)
– Period is 3 years for non-marketed products 7? for marketed products
– THAT IS ALL – no minor change ‘follow ons’ (Rx)

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