SOPA and PIPA are prime examples of big companies trying to do everything they can to stop new competitors from innovating. They’re also examples of how lobbying in the United States has become one of the most effective ways of limiting this sort of competition.
A common refrain in Silicon Valley is that Congress should be smart enough to know how the Internet works. It may sound reasonable, but it isn’t. There are 535 people in Congress who are responsible for passing laws that relate to the environment, pharmaceuticals, transportation, infrastructure, foreign policy, social services — every topic under the sun.
Although it’s a top-of-mind issue for us, neither California Senator Dianne Feinstein nor Senator Barbara Boxer list PIPA (the Senate equivalent of SOPA) on their top issues pages. It’s unreasonable to expect that members of Congress, many of whom are career politicians, study our business. Some make gut reactions in the name of privacy or fear of “hacking.”…
…In an accident of geography, technology has to fight for advocacy in Congress with Hollywood because both are represented by senators from California. If you look at campaign contributions alone, Hollywood does a much better job at reaching out to Senators Feinstein and Boxer than the Internet industry does. According to OpenSecrets.org, Feinstein has received $168,000 from the TV/movie/music industry vs. $86,465 from the Internet industry in the 2012 campaign cycle. Boxer has received $898,568 from Hollywood vs. $431,489 from the Internet industry.
Both of California’s senators are listed as co-sponsors of PIPA.
The cynical thing to do is assume that members of Congress are acting purely in their own financial interests. That may be true for some, but just as many believe that they are doing the right thing. That’s because we suck at presenting our side.
Rocky Agrawal, VentureBeat. If SOPA passes, we’re as much to blame as Congress and Hollywood.
Agrawal argues that SOPA and PIPA opponents must do a better job at educating politicians and the media on these issues and their consequences.
This week, the free and open Internet millions of Americans have come to depend on is under attack.
In a procedural move, Senate Republicans are trying to overturn the rules that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) put in place late last year to help protect net neutrality — the simple idea that all content and applications on the Internet should be treated the same, regardless of who owns the content or the website. The House already pushed through this dangerous legislation, which would effectively turn control of the Internet over to a handful of very powerful corporations.
I sincerely hope the Senate doesn’t follow suit, and I’m doing everything I can to make sure this terrible legislation never reaches the President’s desk.
While millions of Americans have become familiar with the concept of net neutrality, it’s important that we’re all on the same page. Net neutrality isn’t a government takeover of the Internet, as many of my Republican colleagues have alleged. It isn’t even a change from what we have now. Net neutrality has been in place since the very beginning of the Internet.
Google’s caught a lot of heat over its G+ real name policy. Part of it’s simply the arbitrary nature of the real name enforcement: many people using their real names — and well known nicknames — have been kicked off Plus.
But there’s a much deeper and more important conversation taking place that has to do with identity, privacy and the right to anonymity.
Danah Boyd, a researcher with Microsoft and fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center, considers real name policies an abuse of power:
I’m really really glad to see seriously privileged people take up the issue, because while they are the least likely to actually be harmed by “real names” policies, they have the authority to be able to speak truth to power. And across the web, I’m seeing people highlight that this issue has more depth to it than fun names (and is a whole lot more complicated than boiling it down to being about anonymity, as Facebook’s Randi Zuckerberg foolishly did).
What’s at stake is people’s right to protect themselves, their right to actually maintain a form of control that gives them safety. If companies like Facebook and Google are actually committed to the safety of its users, they need to take these complaints seriously. Not everyone is safer by giving out their real name. Quite the opposite; many people are far LESS safe when they are identifiable. And those who are least safe are often those who are most vulnerable.
News sites are continuously grappling with how to elevate the tone of reader comments. One chosen way is to make people use their real names in order to comment on stories. For example, some sites require you to swipe your credit card for a nominal one-time fee (say, a dollar) in order to prove you’re you.
Site’s that have done this (or found other ways to implement “real name” systems) generally report that while the overall number of comments goes down, the quality of discussion improves. That is, there’s less of an impulse to lob rhetorical bombs when people know exactly who you are.
But apply what Boyd writes here to the newspaper rather than the social network and we have the same dynamic. Namely, the paper dictating who can comment and participate, and ignoring the very real reasons why some in a community would need to anonymously contribute to a conversation about sensitive issues.
If news sites want to clean up comment sections, create a civil culture within them by having moderators, reporters and editors set the tone by actively participating in them. Otherwise, your crazies with an axe to grind will continue to ruin the roost.
The United States will ensure that the risks associated with attacking or exploiting our networks vastly outweigh the potential benefits.
Clearly what we’ve seen over the last couple of years is the power of the Internet. And what we’ve seen is that countries that are not supportive of the Internet are working together, sharing information to try to push back. That’s very clear. We see cooperation between Cuba and Venezuela. We see the Iranians as well. We have the emergence of Freedom 2.0 and the reaction of Repression 2.0. We need to see this as more than a human rights issue.
Robert Guerra, Director of the Internet Freedom Project at Freedom House, via an interview with Deutsche Welle. New Internet freedom report ranks Estonia first, Iran last.
In mid-April, Freedom House released a 400-plus page report on Internet freedom in 37 different countries.
The report concludes that “threats to internet freedom are growing and have become more diverse. Cyber attacks, politically-motivated censorship, and government control over internet infrastructure have emerged as especially prominent threats.”