Why The Public Is Willing To Rally Against SOPA/PIPA, But Not For It
from the these-are-the-sites-they-use dept
The Tumblr involvement is really amazing too. The company decided to hack together their phone call system in just a day or two, and then were able to deliver such a massive phone campaign to Congress. 87,834 actual phone calls in the course of a day, reaching 3.6 per second at some points. 1,293 hours spent talking. And Tumblr users alerted others as well:
Supporters of SOPA/PIPA like to claim that the public is behind them. Actual data suggests otherwise, but it got me wondering why people were so much more willing to speak out on this issue -- on a topic that rarely gets this kind of vocal grassroots support. Sure, people like the internet sites they use -- Tumblr, Reddit, FourSquare, Kickstater, and various other sites that spoke out against the bill. But, people also like music and movies from the big entertainment industry players. So why are they not buying the message from old Hollywood that they need SOPA/PIPA?
Part of it, I think, has to do with simple reality. People can look at the details of these bills and recognize why they're so bad, and go way beyond their stated purpose. But a larger issue, it seems, is the changing way in which companies interact with people these days. The big Hollywood studios and major record labels have spent the past decade treating their fans as if they were criminals. The assumption, at every turn, was that these people had the worst of intentions and only wanted to rip them off (despite plenty of evidence to the contrary). Thus, they focused on making life worse for users, with lots of collateral damage. Things like DRM and suing kids.
On the flip side, internet companies recognize that their users are everything. They build communities, they connect and they give those community members a voice -- rather than just assuming the relationship is one way (and only exists after you give them money). This is what Brad Burnham meant recently when talking about the "trust" that built the internet.
In some ways, it's just the other side of the coin of our discussions on the difference between gatekeepers and enablers. People tolerate gatekeepers grudgingly, because they're necessary, but often cruel. However they love enablers, because they allow them to do things that simply weren't possible otherwise... and let them retain control in doing so. That's much more powerful than people realize -- and it doesn't seem that the old line entertainment industry or many elected officials recognize that yet.
In fact, many in both of those camps are betting (heavily) that last week's outpouring of public opposition was a fluke, and not sustainable. I would take the other side on this bet. Last week's awakening of the internet was done on the fly with very little advanced planning and still turned out massive numbers. Beyond Tumblr setting up its phone system in about a day, much of the entire American Censorship Day effort was produced in just a little over a week by what's basically a brand new organization almost no one has heard of, Fight for the Future. Imagine what they, and others, can do with more time to plan and build on this initial success.
There's no doubt that the backers of this bill are outspending the opposition on lobbying by about 10x. And, as we know, money tends to speak in DC. But... all the campaign contributions in the world won't get you re-elected if the public won't vote for you. And the uprising here threatens to make SOPA/PIPA into an election issue, and the results above suggest that those who underestimate the public's dislike of any plan to censor the internet, even for the sake of copyright, may do so at their own peril.