Homework Assignment: Go Talk To Your Representative Or Senator About SOPA/PIPA

from the do-it! dept

We've already discussed how things will work at the end of the month when the Senate comes back into session and Harry Reid tries to put PIPA to a vote. However, as we noted, that only works if enough Senators are convinced to support a plan to move forward with PIPA and approve the first bill to allow an American internet blacklist to occur. That means there are just a few weeks to make sure that Senators are aware of the widespread outrage about these bills, and that they're not left falling for the lies that Hollywood and the bills' sponsors are spreading.

One way to do this is to go see your Senators and your Congressional Reps over the next few weeks. With Congress out of session, it's pretty typical for elected officials to hold "town hall meetings," and it's important for people to attend these sessions and speak up. I know that many people feel apathetic towards elected officials, and don't believe anything said to them will make a difference -- but that's not true. If they're at least hearing about the controversy and concerns enough, at least some will recognize that this bill is not something they want their names associated with and will back off. Unfortunately, these meetings are often scheduled with very little notice, and the standards/requirements to get in vary drastically. Thankfully, folks have been putting together some great resources to help you figure out when these are being held and how to take part.
  • The good folks at Reddit are helping to crowdsource info about meetings.
  • There's a Meetup.com page listing out known townhall sessions. Again, these often appear with very little notice, so check back often.
  • Even without townhall sessions, you can and should reach out to your elected officials about meeting with them to express your concerns. Even if they don't actually take the meeting, hearing from enough people will alert them that there's widespread concern. Internet Freedom has set up a neat forum system, organized by state, that will both highlight when there are townhalls and, more importantly, provide details on how to request a meeting with your Senators. On top of that, it will allow coordination for those who do get meetings to go with a group of similarly concerned residents.
  • EFF has a page about in district meetings, why they're important and how to set them up. It also has a one-pager with some basic facts that sums up the problems (pdf).
  • Public Knowledge has also put together a quick two-page citizen packet (pdf) that highlights problems with the bills, and includes some "sample questions" that people might want to ask if possible.
Now, as a group of combined concerned citizens, we don't have the lobbying power of Hollywood or the US Chamber of Commerce, but constituent concerns do matter to politicians. They want to get re-elected at some point, after all. There's less than three weeks to make every Senator aware of the damage they're about to do to the internet, to innovation and to the economy if they're not well-informed about this bill. This is a true GoDaddy situation. While there are some efforts to have SOPA/PIPA supporters lose their next elections, all that's really needed is for them to recognize that this bill is bad news, and to refuse to vote to move the bill forward. That can be done, but it requires a lot of people speaking up and making a difference. Hollywood has the easy access, but the rest of us have the sheer numbers and the facts on our side. Let's make that work for us...

Filed Under: congress, get involved, meetings, pipa, protect ip, senate, sopa, town hall


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jan 2012 @ 8:25pm

    "I know that many people feel apathetic towards elected officials, and don't believe anything said to them will make a difference -- but that's not true."

    From the reddit link

    JeanVanDeVelde writes

    "I went to my representative's town hall (Howard Berman, D-CA, SOPA co-sponsor) on Wednesday evening (1/4) and was refused an opportunity to read a 2 minute statement. I agreed to truncate my remarks and go without my written notes. I was then informed that I could only ask a question, I assume the next step was to screen my question but I left the meeting, sent an email expressing how offended I was by the closed nature of the event and followed up with a call to his office the next day. I still have not received any form of reply, much less an apology and a chance to have my voice heard on this matter.

    I now understand why OWS uses the "mic check" strategy. The staff was there to stonewall and close people out.

    I'd love it if Reddit could join me with a couple of nicely placed phone calls to Mr. Berman inquiring about why people were refused a chance to make a statement and why the "town hall" for constituents within his district was used as an opportunity for Mr. Berman to make campaign statements regarding the forthcoming re-districting primary.

    This is one of the main guys being paid directly and by lobbyists on behalf of the few media companies that control our industry here in Los Angeles."

    Response from J-Ro

    "Good on you for taking the time to go. Tip for next time: Do what you need to do to get a chance to speak (ie. say you agree to their conditions), then speak your mind."

    and response from JeanVanDeVelde again

    "yeah, in the future i'll do a little more social engineering. I was expecting microphone lines (like every public meeting i've ever been to), but it's 100% politics. tough game and i'm not willing to play it, I feel like it's more effective to do activist and volunteer work."

    http://www.reddit.com/r/SOPA/comments/o5p6h/help_us_crowdsource_data_on_town_hall_meetings /

    Where is this open democracy and free speech you speak of? It doesn't exist. They blocked free speech out from every avenue outside the Internet, from wrongfully granted government established broadcasting and cableco monopolies to political town hall meetings. and, to the extent that the MSM pretends to oppose SOPA/PIPA et al and to the extent that they cover these IP issues with some iota of balance (instead of merely being one sided) and to the extent that they're no longer blatantly dishonest, it's only because of the Internets influence on the media. Mark my word, they intend to turn the Internet into the same censored platform they wrongfully turned everything outside the Internet into through bad laws.

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