Congressional Staffers Still Can't Come To Terms With What Happened Over SOPA

from the time-to-learn dept

In a short article about a panel of Congressional staffers at the NCTA show, they basically admitted that any new "anti-piracy" legislation may be tough to pass -- with one staffer saying that the SOPA protests "poisoned the well." However, perhaps more interesting were the comments from Stephanie Moore, the "Democrat's chief counsel on the House Judiciary Committee" who apparently still refuses to believe that the public actually spoke out against the bill of their own free will:
“What happened was a misinformation campaign,” said Moore. “People were basically misled into contacting Congressmen with claims that were extraordinary. There was some genuine concern, but as for it being a genuine home grown grassroots up-from-the-streets opposition, I beg to differ on that.”
I always find this line of reasoning quite extraordinary. If you look at the history of copyright law -- especially over the past 40 years or so, it's been one "misinformation campaign" after another by RIAA and MPAA lobbyists. As we've discussed, Congress has bent over backwards to pass 15 anti-piracy laws in the last 30 years -- each one pushed by industry lobbying about how they would collapse and die without the laws being passed, and how no one will create content without such laws. They've been wrong every single time. So even if it was a misinformation campaign on the other side, at best all it would do is even out the playing field. Besides, looking at the arguments in favor of SOPA and PIPA, they were so full of blatant misinformation that I don't think any amount of misinformation against the bills would have even out the score.

But, to be clear, since I was pretty closely involved in the effort to stop these dangerous bills, I can say first hand that the claim that this was a "misinformation campaign" and that it wasn't about an "up-from-the-streets opposition" are hogwash by a person speaking from ignorance, anger or jealousy over having their own pet bill blocked. The folks working against the bill worked pretty damn hard to paint a clear and accurate picture of the bill. While there were various people who helped shepherd the process along, the protests didn't take on any life until various communities of people took them over and ran with them -- starting with the users on Tumblr and Reddit (followed closely by those on Wikipedia).

Of course, when you have any large group of internet users, not all of them are going to understand the nuances or the details. So, certainly some misinformation got into the discussion. To be fair, though, the largest bit of "misinformation" I saw on the anti-SOPA side was from people who didn't realize that (under serious public pressure), Lamar Smith issued a manager's amendment to take out the worst of the worst of SOPA (still leaving in plenty of bad). Some people mistakenly referred to the impact of the original bill in protesting later versions. This was, indeed, a mistake, but hardly a result of "misinformation." After all, those issues were in the original bill and were clearly part of what the House Judiciary Committee's staff was going for when it scribbled down the bill as the MPAA dictated it crafted the bill.

What I do know is that when misleading suggestions were made on the anti-SOPA email list, knowledgeable people quickly pushed back against those claims, noting that they were not true and should not be used. I did not see that on the other side. When the bogus claims of the entertainment industry were widely debunked, the supporters of SOPA kept on quoting them (and still do, to this day).

So, I'm sorry, but the idea that the defeat of SOPA was a misinformation campaign and not a grassroots effort is pure bunk. And if Moore wants to avoid a repeat, rather than lashing out mistakenly, and misunderstanding what happened, she should perhaps spend some time actually learning about why people were so upset by SOPA. But, of course, we know that won't happen.

Filed Under: anti-piracy, house judiciary committee, mpaa, ncta, sopa, stephanie moore


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  1. icon
    Pro Se (profile), 22 May 2012 @ 9:23am

    “What happened was a misinformation campaign” is actually a quite accurate statement about how certain persons went about stirring up the masses who were unfamiliar with the proposed bill. For example, whenever a change was made to address feedback received from various quaters about some of the bill's provisions, this was many times not noted in criticism leveled at the bill. The rationale? "Well, it was in the original draft, so it will likely be re-inserted at some time in the future, and that is a big problem because eventually what is enacted into law will mirror the original bill."

    The anti-SOPA rhetoric was of epic proportions, was laden with statements that were not in the then pending bill, cherry-picked provisions without noting that those provisions related back to other provisions and definitions that were material to limitations associated with the cherry-picked provisions, presented flawed analysis of constitutional law, etc., etc., etc.

    As the process progressed, it became abundantly clear that no matter what the bill's sponsors did to ameliorate concerns, it was all wasted effort because the anti-SOPA activists had absolutely no interest in anything other than the wholesale destruction of the bill. The bill's sponsors were actually negotiating with themselves as it opponents refused to provide even an iota of constructive input into how the bill's provisions could be amended to address their concerns.

    It was FUD then, and this article is little more than a misleading and disingenuous continuation of that FUD.

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