'Don't Get SOPA'd' Is The New Mantra On Capitol Hill

from the good dept

As we noted when one of the recent cybersecurity bills was introduced in the Senate, it was accompanied by a press release that explicitly stated that this bill wasn’t SOPA. While the entertainment industry keeps hoping that the anti-SOPA protests were a one-time experience, apparently the power of internet users is very much on the minds of nearly everyone on Capitol Hill who have turned the phrase “don’t get SOPA’d” into a new mantra.

This is excellent news in a number of ways. Congress should fear backlash from going against the will of the people, especially in mucking around with some of the key tools they use to communicate every day. The only issue I take with the article is that it rehashes the false dichotomy that SOPA was “Silicon Valley vs. Hollywood,” and quotes lots of people who continue to talk about how the way to avoid “getting SOPA’d” is to talk to the tech industry, but not to internet users themselves. Now, I think that talking to the tech industry is a good place to start, and it is an important stakeholder in understanding the internet, but what drove the SOPA protests was the users. Yes, tech companies helped get their users interested in the topic, but once the users on Tumblr, Reddit and Wikipedia took over, they were the ones driving the bus. The companies themselves took a backseat and, at times, were pressured into going along with what the users wanted, against their own concerns (for example, the date of the January 18th protests, which many “industry insiders” thought was too early, since the Senate wasn’t yet in session).

So, while quotes like this are great to see:

“Nobody wants another SOPA moment,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), a vocal critic of SOPA, told POLITICO. “The nerds are more powerful than anyone thought, and the tech industry flexed its muscle like never before.”

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) said the anti-SOPA movement showed a certain “coming of political age” for the tech industry, and his colleagues in the House are treading carefully.

“They’re involving the tech community more and are more interested in listening,” said Polis, who also opposed SOPA. “They’re paying closer attention now.”

I think even those two strong allies in the fight against SOPA are missing the mark somewhat. It’s not the tech industry that people need to be paying such close attention to. It’s the internet users themselves. Ignoring that and just trying to court deals with the companies is a strategy that’s likely to backfire.

At the end, the article acknowledges this in a rather backhanded way — merely using it to suggest that the tech industry really isn’t so powerful and that politicians shouldn’t worry about another SOPA:

“The rational observers realize there’s a significant overestimation of high tech’s ability to control the netroots,” said one industry lobbyist.

Another lobbyist said it’s “nearly impossible” to get the tech community to engage on policy issues, especially complicated measures that are highly technical, such as cybersecurity, or dry, such as online taxes.

“SOPA was an inflection point and people on the Hill are certainly going to take more notice next time around,” the lobbyist said. “But one incident like that isn’t going to be the huge game changer.”

But notice what’s totally ignored here. That the “netroots” — the internet users who stood up and spoke out by the millions — still are engaged and aware. The lobbyist is correct that the tech industry can’t control the netroots. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to fear concerning another SOPA, it means that politicians need to be open and engaging with the netroots, not just the tech industry.

And this article suggests that folks on Capitol Hill still might not understand that… which is why it actually may be more likely that we’ll see another SOPA moment.

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Comments on “'Don't Get SOPA'd' Is The New Mantra On Capitol Hill”

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71 Comments
Machin Shin (profile) says:

?The nerds are more powerful than anyone thought, and the tech industry flexed its muscle like never before.?

Got to love the whole jock mentality all these guys seem to have. Constantly throwing around “the nerds” as if this is still high school. It is about time for these guys to wake the hell up and realize us “nerds” do a hell of a lot more in the real world than the quarterback jocks do.

Looking all fashionable and being able to throw a ball around does not in any way help society. That does not lead to innovation or new ideas. Sure there are some jocks that do add to society but it is their hidden “nerdyness” that helps society not their ability to throw a football.

J (user link) says:

Re: Re:

I wouldn’t judge Chaffetz too harshly for that. He’s one of the internet’s best friends. He really needs to quit using the term, but he’s speaking to engage the media, not really expressing his real feelings on the matter.

He’s one of the few people that’s insisted on bringing in the technically adept, as opposed to writing legislation in the dark. I get that most won’t take it that way, but his usage of the term ‘nerds’ is affectionate, not derogatory.

anotheranon says:

What bothers me most is the idea the word ‘control’. It seems Capitol Hill only thinks of industries in terms of whoever has the power to control the most mindless sheep. For a very long time, this was mass media. Now, in their minds, they’re seeing the tech industry ‘control’ the internet. Of course they don’t see ‘netroots’ as individuals, or think about our legitimate concerns. They’re just thinking in terms of statistics that can be monopolized and shared.

So that’s what it’s all about. Not really about money, even, but about who can control the sheep and keep them distracted while the government does its thing. Let the people be kept unawares, run along now, let the adults do their own things, etc.

I’m pretty sure my country didn’t lend airbases to the US for this back in the 70’s.

Hulser (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It seems Capitol Hill only thinks of industries in terms of whoever has the power to control the most mindless sheep.

I think it doesn’t even occur to most politicians that they’d have to engage the people as a whole instead of big companies or lobbying groups. Money in concentrated in big companies and lobbying groups, so that’s whey’re they’re conditioned to focus their attention. When confronted with what happened with SOPA, their response is “Right, OK…but who’s going to pay my bribes?”

MPHinPgh (profile) says:

Remarkable

The poiticians, even as they’re trying to say “We get it”, don’t get it. On one hand, they think it’s the tech companies they need to appease. Then they think it’s the “nerds” they need to appease. What they don’t get (and Mike states as much, I’m just boiling it down) it that it’s the citizenry, the people the politicians (allegedly) represent that need to be appeased. They have such a warped sense of who they work for (i.e. corporations and special interests) that they’ve completely forgotten that it is the average citizen that they should be worried about.

I feel more confident everyday in my “Vote out incumbents” philosophy.

tqk says:

Re: Remarkable

The poiticians, even as they’re trying to say “We get it”, don’t get it. On one hand, they think it’s the tech companies they need to appease. Then they think it’s the “nerds” they need to appease. What they don’t get (and Mike states as much, I’m just boiling it down) it that it’s the citizenry, the people the politicians (allegedly) represent that need to be appeased.

Indeed. In fact, I thought the “tech industry” needed to be dragged kicking and screaming into this long after I’d been seeing spitting mad people posting about SOPA/PIPA on *many* net forums (TD, /., Ars, …). GoDaddy backed off once threatened. Wikimedia showed up when they finally realized what it meant to them. Even Google seemed pretty slow to “get it.”

It seems there is a lot of truth in the belief that politicians these days only hear those who can potentially show up with a big fat check.

Skeptical Cynic (profile) says:

What is missed

What is missed is that it wasn’t the tech industry it was people, just average people that saw what was going to happen if the law was passed and did not like it. The internet is not for Nerds or Geeks anymore. It is for everyone. The average person uses the internet in the US 32 hours a month.

And Everyone is what they need to worry about. Not just the Nerds.

weneedhelp (profile) says:

getting SOPA'd

You can see they still think it was a big fucking joke. Oh we pissed of the “techies” They just dont get it.

Now we have to scrutinize every piece of legislation. They WILL be slipping in this crap bit by bit.

I think this is lousy and shows just how much they dont get it:
?The nerds are more powerful than anyone thought, and the tech industry flexed its muscle like never before.?
As I have stated before, the “nerds” are your citizens, and even my Mom(I am 42) can not live without the internet and her laptop.

“the tech industry flexed its muscle” – (Shaking head) Just dont get it. GET OFF MY LAWN!!!!!

EVERY CITIZEN, YOUNG AND OLD, IS A NERD NOWADAYS. Please find a way to get that point through your thick skulls congress.

tqk says:

Re: Re: Government response

But, but… If the nerds are common, everyday Americans, what does that make our elite, rich and spoiled masters?

Dinosaurs, silly. 🙂

They still think we can all be controlled by buying politicians to pass draconian laws that we’ll all be good citizens and heed. Too bad we can’t force politicians and the *AAs to just get on the net themselves and listen to our screams of outrage.

Anonymous Coward says:

The lobbyist is correct that the tech industry can’t control the netroots. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to fear concerning another SOPA, it means that politicians need to be open and engaging with the netroots, not just the tech industry.

So are you saying that if a SOPA-type bill emerged that was supported by tech companies and content alike, that it could be defeated by the net roots alone?

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re:

What you’re missing is that the tech industry, as reliant on copyright as “big content” is is used to sharing.

What we have today is built on nerds, if you must, sharing concepts AND code to build and improve on what came before. The entire open source segment of tech comes from that ethic. A great deal of closed source also comes from there as well. As do things like advancement in chip design and coding.

There is little or no common ground between the the tech industry and the “content” industry in that regard. So a bill that benefits both is highly unlikely.

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s not practical to “talk to the users,” as there is no way to identify a “user”. If I’m a politician and I go onto a forum, like, say, Techdirt, post some legislation that I’m considering, and get 100 opinions on it, how do I know that I just got 100 distinct users’ opinions and not, say, 10 users with 10 different handles?

And how do I know that these are even users from within my constituency? They could be anyone from anywhere in the world who has an internet connection.

At least if I talk to authorized representatives from a tech company, I’m dealing with an entity that’s registered as a business with local/state/federal governments and therefore has slightly less liberty to troll me. Tech lobbyists may be guilty of any number of devious political schemes, but misrepresenting their own interests to lawmakers strictly for the lulz is not one of them.

But if you can think of a way for an elected official to consult with voters that will preserve the constituents’ anonymity while simultaneously guaranteeing their authenticity, yes, user-level feedback is great and should be strongly encouraged.

DCX2 says:

Re: Re:

To think that the value of one’s opinion depends on who is making that opinion is an ad-hominem logical fallacy.

Suppose a brilliant opinion is written by someone from Nigeria. Does that make the opinion any less brilliant? Should a lawmaker ignore this idea entirely because it’s not one of their constituents?

As far as “10 users with 10 different handles”, while it’s impossible to prevent this with 100% accuracy, there are many ways to mitigate this issue. Besides, it would not be unlike how the Parents Television Council is responsible for the vast majority of complaints to the FCC, using automated forms submitted by individuals who almost never actually see the offending material in question, who represent less than 0.01% of Americans, resulting in millions of dollars of “indecency” fines.

tqk says:

Re: Re:

But if you can think of a way for an elected official to consult with voters that will preserve the constituents’ anonymity while simultaneously guaranteeing their authenticity, yes, user-level feedback is great and should be strongly encouraged.

People have been sending personal emails to politicians for a long time now, but what do we keep hearing about the pols’ responses? “All I got was this shitty boilerplate response from a staffer restating the pol’s belief in the necessity of their intention.”

It takes two to tango. If you won’t listen, you can’t hear.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I am going to have to agree with DCX2 here. Does it really matter who is sending in the information from where? I don’t think so. If it results in better legislation then it was good advice.

As it stands right now, we the people aren’t being heard on any regular basis. Just a few months ago, I was told that if I wasn’t flying out to Washington DC and booking an appointment with my representative every time I needed to voice my opinion, then my opinion doesn’t matter. What made such a statement worse was the fact that my Congressman and Senator’s responses to my letters seemed to hold that as a truth.

Contrary to popular troll belief, these people are elected to represent the people, not special interests. Legislation should be considered on its impact for all people in the US, not just those who spend millions lobbying the government every year. SOPA failed because it was not carefully weighed and balanced to the benefit of all the US. That is why any further legislation following it will fail.

It is time to stop the closed minded and closed off legislative process.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If I’m a politician and I go onto a forum, like, say, Techdirt, post some legislation that I’m considering, and get 100 opinions on it, how do I know that I just got 100 distinct users’ opinions and not, say, 10 users with 10 different handles?

Maybe you can’t. But registered lobbyists certainly exaggerate the citizenry support for their positions, so this is a problem across the board.

And how do I know that these are even users from within my constituency? They could be anyone from anywhere in the world who has an internet connection.

And this is also no different than dealing with lobbying groups.

At least if I talk to authorized representatives from a tech company, I’m dealing with an entity that’s registered as a business with local/state/federal governments and therefore has slightly less liberty to troll me.

They do? Because I see nearly constant trolling on the part of these firms that is easily on the order of the best of what the internet can do.

The problems you cite are valid. They just aren’t mitigated by paying attention only to industry entities.

Besides, politicians are supposed to represent the people not industry. To simply discount people in favor of industry is the very thing that is wrong with our government today.

Anonymous Coward says:

I have no doubt that many people “spoke up”, but I am left wondering how many who did so spoke-up multiple times and/or are not US citizens.

What troubles me most about the recent SOPA/PIPA debacle is not that people spoke up, but that so many of them appear to have done so in response to moral panics that were not a part of the pending bills.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Regardless, the amended bills were still bad, still unbalanced to the detriment of the public and still needed to be killed.

Another problem was the nature in which the bills were amended. They were amended in private with no input except by those that were lobbying for the bills to begin with. That still screams abuse.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Even if bad, that is still no excuse to deliberately pass out misinformation.

As for the amendments, they were made to scale back the bills in light of input from various groups lobbying against some of their provisions. I am not sure how that screams abuse. It seems to me it is quite the contrary.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

What I am getting at is that you claim to want to end misinformation campaigns, but it seems for only the side the won this particular debate. You want those who fought against SOPA/PIPA to stop using misinformation (which I agree with you on that point) but are neglecting the massive amount of misinformation coming from the pro-SOPA/PIPA side of the debate.

What is troubling is that you think it is such a huge issue that people were latching onto the original language of the bills even after many of the more troubling parts were amended out, but seem to have no problem with the fact that the bills in question were written and proposed based on the very lies and misinformation spouted by the likes of the MPAA and the RIAA.

DCX2 says:

Nearly impossible?

Another lobbyist said it?s ?nearly impossible? to get the tech community to engage on policy issues, especially complicated measures that are highly technical, such as cybersecurity, or dry, such as online taxes.

It wouldn’t be so impossible if these lobbyists would…I dunno…be willing to engage the tech industry *at all*?

How can you expect the industry to engage on policy issues when they *were never invited to a discussion*?

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Nearly impossible?

Perhaps it’s hard to engage the tech community or individuals when the lobbyist is constantly wanting baby talk. The problem I see here is that the lobbyist and, by extension, the tech industry speak two different languages. If one or the other is speaking the jargon of their trade then the other is left wondering what these people are talking about.

For example tech jargon will leave most “outsiders” dreadfully cold and the uneducated completely frozen out. I suspect that the lobbyist (and politician) aren’t at all educated in the technology of the Internet or the World Wide Web so acronyms that slip off the tongue of the techies such as DNS, FTP, Server, IIS vs Apache and many others just don’t mean a thing to the lobbyist or politician.

Then again, it’s about time the lobbyists and politicians figured all this stuff out. Even at the most basic level.

The MPAA and RIAA have an advantage these days in that given the basic tools on Windows, Apple and most Linux distros you can make a half way passable move of you and your grandkids day at the beach and a half way passage sound recording if you have a half decent microphone or two hanging around. The politicians, even if they can’t or have never done it before, are their heart of hearts that they can do these things. So what’s not to understand? Even if they don’t know the difference between a cut and a swipe.

Add all the spare cash that the RIAA and MPAA have around as they shriek about poverty and you find yourself with a deal clincher quite often.

Very few, if any, congress critters have installed Windows from scratch with the what seems like half a million reboots along the way, Even fewer have installed a Linux distro which, for most of them, these days is a walk in the park compared to Windows.

If the need any of that it’s a call to the grandkids, again, to do it for them. The Web Kids.

Tech may need to simplify things for these people without talking down to them even if it’s a 10 minute crash course. The lobbyists and politicians need to take these sorts of things seriously enough to learn some “small” things like computers and networks spend of their time copying or nothing will come out in the end.

But the tech industry has to be invited to the talks and discussions as a bill ABOUT technology is being discussed. Not just the Apple’s, Microsft’s and GoDaddys of the world but also the Apache Foundation, Red Hat, Debians and even Ubuntu’s of the world just to start. Perhaps individuals like Linus Torvalds, Tim Berners-Lee and Bill Gates as well.

And precious little these days when talking or legislating isn’t, in one form or another, talking about technology. And, to an increasing extent, about the Internet.

It’s long past time or the great divide of the recent past to end.

Beta (profile) says:

nearly impossible

‘Another [tech industry] lobbyist said it?s ?nearly impossible? to get the tech community to engage on policy issues, especially complicated measures that are highly technical, such as cybersecurity…’

Yes, it’s nearly impossible to get the tech community to engage on cybersecurity policy issues. They’re such smartasses about security. We develop body scanners for airport security, and the online community points out that they’re totally worthless. We try to give the government new powers to invade citizens’ privacy and strip them of their civil rights in order to prevent massive cyberattack, and they go and point out that the scenarios are wildly unrealistic and can be prevented by simple and cheap security measures. We sell the military magic security wands, and the online community makes fun of us. We try to sell the government secure electronic voting systems, and they go and break them in a day. We try to sell the government New And Improved Super-Secure electronic voting systems, and they break them in a day. We try to advance new innovations in DRM, and the hackers break them in a day. We try to make it illegal to expose the security holes, which would make all of these problems go away, and they piss and moan.

Why can’t they just let us be the security experts?

kenichi tanaka says:

I don’t think it’s politicians who are worried but rather the tech industry. Americans are the consumers of their products. Considering that the SOPA controversy has turned itno a firestorm and has caught fire to one of the very cornerstones of our country, Silicon Valley and many other organizations, companies/businesses and those in other industries have caught a lot of bad press over their support for the bill.

The bill is a dream for the entertainment industry (and for Congress) but that our “representatives” in Congress didn’t count on the “LEVEL of backlash and LEVEL of discontent that SOPA and PIPA have created. There has been so much protest over these type of bills that it’s amounting to basically a “Rodney King” type movement.

I didn’t want to use that analogy but Congress is to blame for all of this. It wasn’t until September 11th, 2001 that Americans started paying close attention to the hearing and coverage on C-Span that was happening in Congress (House of Representatives, The Senate). It’s a two edged sword and now American voters hold Congress even more liable for what they are voting on in Congress and it’s created the kind of Grassroots support that Congress hasn’t seen in such a long time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Calling them nerds, shows even this politician doesn’t get it. If it were only the nerds, there’d be maybe hundreds of thousands at most, not tens of millions of peopling calling and signing against SOPA.

It’s obvious even SOPA critics don’t really understand how important the Internet has become in people’s lives, let alone the SOPA supporters. They are all just trying to paint this on the “nerds” as if it’s only some minority you might be able to ignore later on, by pitting other groups against the “nerds”.

Well, I hope they realize they are wrong thinking that, because the vast majority of people disagreeing with SOPA were NOT nerds.

Geek Hillbilly (profile) says:

Nerds,Geeks & SOPA

You damned right we nerds * geeks are paying very close attention to what the MAFIAA is trying to pull in Washington DC.And I got news for the MOFOs-. We ain’t gonna every let up.

I use the internet a lot,being disabled than there is no way SOPA,PIPA or ACTA will get through without some kind of shady dealing.Then they will get called out and forced to withdraw.

Anyone of Capitol Hill who supports such bill has found out there will be a terrible price to pay such censorship.

Steve says:

If they still think this is a “tech industry” thing, and not a “concerned people of the world wanting to protect internet freedom” thing, then that means that they don’t realize their actions have awoken a sleeping giant who will be watching their every political move. Somehow I think that the vomit-worthy DMCA would have met the same fate if people were as connected and aware of such political shenanigans in the late 90s as they are now.

Anonymous Coward says:

You guys need to learn – they tried to do it right in front of you, and you got mad and made a stink because they were taking your binky away. So next time, they will go it piece meal, as amendments to other laws, in budget bills, and the like. Quite simple, the results will be the same, and you won’t have a name or a single law to attack.

SUCKERS!

bshock (profile) says:

Oh noes, the U.S. might become a democracy!

So if Hollywood/Congress insists that anti-SOPA backlash only came from the tech sector, does that mean Hollywood/Congress completely, aristocratically, arrogantly discounts the notion of democracy? Or does it mean Hollywood/Congress is like a drunk searching for his keys under a streetlight after losing them in a dark alley?

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Oh noes, the U.S. might become a democracy!

… there’s nothing aristocratic about it.

they’re plutocrats

neither of which have Anything to do with democracy one way or the other.

(plutocracy is rule by the rich, aristocracy rule by … nobles, i guess? not sure on the precise meaning for that one. please note that Neither is rule by the people (democracy). blood and steel or gold and ink, either way the common man gets shafted. difference is, that’s how plutocrats Get there, so it becomes ingraned, while aristocrats have at least Some hope of having other ideas.)

Kimberly Chapman (profile) says:

I want Lamar Smith GONE

I was in Lloyd Doggett’s district but TX just hosed him and moved him, so now I’m in Lamar SOPA Smith’s district. If all goes well I’ll have citizenship within two months (only waiting for the ceremony at this point). I will then work as much as I’m able with my other volunteer commitments to get Smith out of office, preferably with a Democrat, but if it has to be the GOP guy challenging him, I’ll take that. Smith MUST GO. And hopefully everyone who blacked out during the protest will contribute to the effort to get him out.

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