Congressional Staffer Says SOPA Protests 'Poisoned The Well', Failure To Pass Puts Internet At Risk

from the seriously? dept

Yikes. About a month ago, we wrote about some comments by Congressional staffer Stephanie Moore, the “Democrat’s chief counsel on the House Judiciary Committee,” in which she still couldn’t come to grips with the fact that the public rose up against SOPA — insisting that it must have been some nefarious “misinformation” campaign. We went through, in a fair amount of detail, how the misinformation was coming from her. It appears that Moore has decided to go even further down this path and express her general distaste for the public. During a panel discussion at the American Constitution Society’s 2012 National Convention, covered by BNA, Moore was a panelist and apparently decided to totally mock the public and make the ridiculous claim that the failure to pass SOPA puts the internet at risk:

“Netizens poisoned the well, and as a result the reliability of the internet is at risk,” Moore said

Think about that for a second. That entire sentence is so incredibly insulting. Millions of people spoke out against bad legislation. The public spoke out, and Moore is so against the basic concept of democracy that she has to claim that millions of people expressing their political opinion is “poisoning the well.” And how in the hell is “the reliability of the internet at risk” because Congress failed to pass a horrifically bad piece of legislation aimed at censoring sites one industry didn’t like? Please.

The report goes on to a bunch of additional insulting comments from Moore towards the public, including the claim that “We don’t know what the numbers mean,” regarding the number of people who contacted Congress on January 18th. Here, I’ll help you out: it means that a very large segment of the American population realized you were trying to push through a bad bill as a favor to some big Hollywood donors, and they didn’t like it. What was so hard to understand about that?

On the same panel was lawyer Steve Metalitz, who represents a number of entertainment industry interests, and whom many people have suggested has had a major hand in the creation of SOPA/PIPA/ACTA and other such proposals. He also had some ridiculous things to say, including supporting the idea that DNS blocking was no problem. His reasoning? Lots of other countries censor the internet, why shouldn’t the US? I’m not kidding:

“Most countries in the world already have this option at their disposal to deal with this problem,” Metalitz said during the ACS discussion. “If site blocking broke the internet, then the internet would already be broken.”

Metalitz is wrong. Either his misinformed or he’s lying. Even SOPA supporters admitted that there are only thirteen countries that enable DNS blocking. That’s not “most.” Oh, and the thirteen? China, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Armenia, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, Burma (Myanmar), Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. This is not a list that we should want the US to be added to. And he’s being disingenuous in saying that “the internet would already be broken.” No one claimed that the internet as a whole would stop working if you put DNS blocking in place. But every single competent security technology expert pointed out that it would have significant negative impact on how important security systems would work. Hell, even Comcast (owner of NBC Universal — the main corporate backer of SOPA) admitted that DNS blocking was incompatible with important DNS security technologies.

Who do we trust? A lawyer with zero computer security/networking knowledge, or pretty much every security expert around? Sorry, but I vote with the experts.

According to the report, Metalitz and Moore then teamed up to misrepresent the free speech concerns that people had about SOPA. They did so by insisting there were no such concerns and that the First Amendment and copyright law could not be in conflict:

Similarly, Metalitz said that the opposition’s argument that “copyright means censorship is simply untrue.” He added, “I understand that in debates like this there is going to be over simplification, but this is a dangerous one for those that care about free expression.”

Moore agreed that the free speech concerns were misplaced. “The First Amendment argument is not appropriate in this context,” Moore said. “The First Amendment is part of copyright. They are not in tension.”

Thankfully, it sounds like there was strong pushback in the audience from folks like professor Lateef Mtima, but really, both Moore and Metalitz are once again being totally disingenuous. No one said that copyright itself means censorship. They said that overly broad copyright laws can and are used for censorship. This is not a hypothetical. We’ve already seen how Russia specifically used copyright law to stifle political speech from opponents. And right here in the US, we have the unfortunate story of the federal government censoring popular hip hop blogs for over a year by falsely accusing them of copyright infringement, shutting them down, and then denying them their day in court.

Frankly, both Moore and Metalitz owe those blog owners an apology. But, of course, no one involved in that situation has ever apologized. Much better to just flat out deny that copyright could ever be used for censorship. Here in the real world, that’s called being in denial. You can’t deny facts, but both Moore and Metalitz seem to have spent this entire panel doing exactly that.

Either way, given their roles in supporting SOPA and their refusal to understand the concerns against it, it seems likely that we haven’t seen the last of horrible, dangerous legislation and international trade agreements from people like Moore and Metalitz.

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Comments on “Congressional Staffer Says SOPA Protests 'Poisoned The Well', Failure To Pass Puts Internet At Risk”

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What on earth?! says:

Moore is quoted as saying “?Congress was criticized for not being tech savvy, but from a lot of the comments we got it became clear that the people who were calling us did not understand the bill any better than we did,? Moore said. “

So, firstly Moore appears to be asserting that she and some other unnamed folks did not understand the bill.

Then she asserts that it is apparent folks ringing to complain did not, but if the first part is true then Moore is not fit to judge that, and neither is she fit to judge whether anyone who suggested as much did so truthfully and accurately.

So the only thing we can be certain of is that Moore seems to think she does not understand the bill and for some reason suspects others don’t as well.

Anonymous Coward says:

Another clanker from Moore:
?Activism is welcome on the Hill, but the volume of the noise cannot always dictate what policies we enact,? she said. ?There’s this thing called ‘mob rule’, and its not always right.?

There’s this thing called corruption and another thing called cronyism and they are never right.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Well, this particular quote seems rather reasonable actually. If most of the population wanted to legalize shoplifting and the movement gained a large amount of public support, it doesn’t mean congress would do as the group wanted. Perhaps this is a bad example, but I hope you can see where I’m coming from here. Besides, Moore has plenty of other criticizable quotes for you to pick from anyway.

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Shoplifting has a demonstrable and quantifiable harm. Besides, it would also depend on how they did it.

What if the government decided on behalf of prosthetic makers that anyone caught shoplifting had a limb removed? We make an almighty clamour, and then we’re told we don’t know anything and ‘great harm’ will come to shops and prosthetic makers if we don’t go all guillotine-y…

A Guy (profile) says:

WE poisoned the well. Right. These people poisoned themselves by attacking what they were sworn to protect.

Look out guys, the lawyers are warning the engineers about the limitations of our technology.

You cannot legislate physics. If the lawyers really want a technology that works the way they WISH it worked, they can become engineers. When you’re done programming the artificial intelligence that can somehow evaluate the copyright status of a 1 or 0 reliably and has an enforcement mechanism that won’t target legitimate expression let the rest of us know. You may be in the running for a Nobel prize.

brian says:

from they article you linked

?Congress was criticized for not being tech savvy, but from a lot of the comments we got it became clear that the people who were calling us did not understand the bill any better than we did,?

So basically Congress didn’t understand what they were trying to do either? That statement all by itself says it was a bad idea.


Anonymous Coward says:

I wonder how blocking sites can make internet “reliable”… Young people might not know everything about copyright, yes, but there’s already enough “education” for them in the form of deleted YouTube videos and stupid warnings on DVDs. Therefore, most people are fully aware of what exactly they’re doing when they download copyrighted material. Its their choice.

With the site filter in place, you can’t visit some page, maybe you’re told that it contains some infridging materials. But since you can’t access the page, how can you be sure what kind of info it contained? How can you be sure it was really copyright infridgement, or some other info somebody didn’t like? How on Earth is that “reliable” if you don’t even know what exactly was blocked?

Scary stuff… Also, they sound as though there already were cases of death by pirated media. Were there?

weneedhelp (profile) says:


Us vs. Them

The government by the people for the people is long forgotten.

The gov is anti-citizen and it will only get worse.

We need to ask ourselves where this is all going.
Whats the endgame?

Ill tell you. A total control grid where every action is monitored. Every move is captured on video. And when the technology catches up, every thought scrutinized.

A new bill of rights needs to be drafted to account for technology and the abuse of human rights it allows.

Conspiracy you say? See me in 20 years.

Anonymous Coward says:

Once again, I hope that many of Congress reads TechDirt and gets a clue. Congress is being watched by the world. Accepting fat envelopes from lobbyist are not serving the office or the people. Thankfully, the people of the world are watching.

So, go ahead politicians, make disrespect comments about the people of the Internet. Seems they have a way of making sure that they heard you.

Anonymous Coward says:


What our government is doing is not only not on the same page with what’s in the public interest, it’s not even in the same book. Their book is entitled ‘how to get rich by scamming the public: how you can benefit from corporate campaign contributions and revolving door favors by being a corporate tool like Ron Kirk’.

weneedhelp (profile) says:

DNS blocking

“Its operators line their pockets by commercially exploiting music and other creative works without paying a penny to the people who created them. This is wrong.”

Its operators line their pockets by commercially exploiting music and other creative works without paying a penny to the people who created them. This is wrong, that’s our job.

Anonymous Coward says:

The public spoke out, and Moore is so against the basic concept of democracy that she has to claim that millions of people expressing their political opinion is “poisoning the well.”

Was she a hippie or something? You know how people who get ripped for something then turn around and start “calling other people out” for the same thing, only entirely out of context?

“Poisoning the well” is what happened in the 60’s when “protesters” went well overboard nationwide and would take over an administration building for things like “we don’t like the candidate for student body president”.

I’m guessing, though, she simply doesn’t like the taste of the water she’s been drawing lately. Nobody thinks of the entitled! Somebody please think of the entitled.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Was she a hippie or something? You know how people who get ripped for something then turn around and start “calling other people out” for the same thing, only entirely out of context?

Are you sure “hippie” is the word you’re looking for? Isn’t that, like, #2 in Karl Rove’s evil playbook of political in-fighting, right after “figure out what your opponent’s greatest strength is, and make it out to be a fatal weakness”?

Rich Kulawiec (profile) says:

It never ceases to amaze me...

…how mere ignorant newbies like this actually have the audacity to believe that their brief and severely limited experience with the Internet has somehow given them the wisdom and insight necessary to make decisions about its future. Even those of us who’ve been here for more than a little while don’t have all the answers: but at least we have the requisite background to ask the right questions.

Anonymous Coward says:

This year I will be refusing to Vote for either of these Big Corrupt and Dysfunctional Parties.
This year I break the cycle of my life where I was never happy Voting for the Establishment and so I only Voted with the old “Lesser of Two Evils” Mentality.
This year I go elsewhere as that is the only way to Peacefully end this BS.
This year I came to realize how if things do not change we will see some very bad and scary times in the very near future.
Fuck You MAFIAA !
Fuck You Washington Politics !
Romney you are an Etch-A-Sketch !
Obama you are a liar and a hypocrite !

Bryan says:

Just a bunch of people practicing The Big Lie. If you tell it big and bold enough, and often, the stupid uninformed population will believe it. It’s worked before. The free internet is the biggest thorn to people like this, which is why they want to get control over it. Imagine people like this deciding what information people should or shouldn’t see. What a disaster that would be. The next step is to publicly humiliate and shame these people back to the holes they crawled out of, this article and others like it should be mainstream.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Netizens poisoned the well, and as a result the reliability of the internet is at risk”

Yep, things would have been MUCH more reliable if people who owned content were easily able to censor that content on other websites that dare publish it. That way the sites would have to pay up, and you would have to pay up to those sites. That would reduce web traffic, and make things MUCH more reliable from decreased demand!

Anonymous Coward says:

Dear Stephanie Moore,

Stop lying, and fuck off until you actually understand the basics of this funny thing calld “Democracy” you claim to represent.

Netizens everywhere.

Aren’t you from the UK? Why don’t you piss off and worry about the situation in your own fucked up country? Seriously dude, go bow before your Queen or grovel at the feet of Lord Douchebag instead of presuming to lecture anyone outside of the Third World on democracy.

Anonymous Coward says:

so, the internet worked perfectly fine without SOPA and similar laws but because the introduction of those laws was stopped by the people who use the internet the most, ordinary citizens, the internet will now fail because those laws are not in place?

where the hell do these people come from? do you go looking for them in person, Mike? talk about know all, know sod all! they need kicking out of their jobs as soon as possible and put into the real world!!

Anonymous Coward says:


Politicians look at the severely inflated numbers and yadayada.

Trueth is that China is looking for knowledge and without protecting the knowledge we have in the western world we cannot squeeze as much money from the chinese development. There are clear references of protecting the rich world from the growing economy in the rest of the world to avoid diluting economy. When you realise that, it gets even harder to knock down the censorship-promoters since they have an argument of national interest which resonates to eternity with nationalists.

Politicians do not care about anything that does not fly with voters and being against something with a possible nationalistic strawman on the back of it is just a no-go.

weneedhelp (profile) says:

Can I borrow a cup of "civil"? I'm all out.

Over the top, not at all. The second an uprising starts, it will be Marshall law, the Constitution will be suspended, and our gulags will be opened up for dissenters and undesirables.

My comment was in response to:
“Those who make peaceful protest impossible will make violent protest inevitable.”

?John F Kennedy (paraphrased)

Not an Electronic Rodent says:

Dear Stephanie Moore,

Seriously? So you think her approach is democratic? Does the fact that someone is not american mean they can’t point out bull when they see it without you getting all rambo’d up?

There is not a single truly democratic government in the world, including both the UK and US and I suspect the above Mr Eejit might agree. More than this, those that profess to be are getting observably less democratic every time they knee-jerk against some imagined threat or pass laws firmly and obviously weighted to favour of those with millions over the majority of the populous.

Anonymous Coward says:

Dear Stephanie Moore,

Oo Trolling?

At the core of the deep division between politics and the Internet is the fact that BGP in and of itself does not necessitate or even recognize by inherent traits any international borders. Paradigm A, Paradigm B (“East Coast / West Coast”). In its ideal, the Internet is a medium for every human on Earth, not just the Euros or the Americans.

To governments, the Internet took a global economy and effectively interconnected all consumers world wide. Attempts to nationalize control away from international cooperation are further illustration of leaders just not understanding the Internet OR a global economy, much less the benefits the Internet brings to our global economy.

Personally I view the Internet as global resource, and when any national venue tries to exert control, I welcome Netizens world round in raising their virtual pitchforks at the clueless.

Anonymous Coward says:

Typical apparatchik point of view

Civil servants are notorious for thinking they know better than the public. There is admittedly some basis for this attitude – after all, we’re the ones who elected the officials that appointed these “servants.”

Since they know from first hand experience how incompetent their bosses are, why should they have respect for those who elected them?

gglop (profile) says:

Of course a lot of people don't understand

?Congress was criticized for not being tech savvy, but from a lot of the comments we got it became clear that the people who were calling us did not understand the bill any better than we did,?
Of course a lot of people don’t understand, but :
– the congress should understand it, they are kinda paid for that
– the people trusted other people that did understand it (google, wikipedia …)

the hell says:


No, all the people protesting understood it ten times more then any of the tech illiterates in congress ever will. When you’re illiterate, you try to learn to read. So when you’re tech illiterate, you should try to learn to use a computer instead of pressing stupidly bad laws on people who do. Moore is a terrible politician and she should feel bad about herself.

chocolateicecream says:

These assholes in congress obviously think they are superior to us. Her comments are about the most disgusting thing I’ve read, such as this:

?Activism is welcome on the Hill, but the volume of the noise cannot always dictate what policies we enact,?

May I remind you Ms. Congressional Staffer, you are supposed to work for *us* not for the RIAA/MPAA. You need to be summarily fired from your post. I for one will work hard to see that happens in November.

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