What SOPA Teaches Us About Social Media and Politics

The online censorship act, find otherwise known as the ‘Stop Online Piracy Act’ (SOPA), diagnosis intends to provide authority to the Department of Justice (DoJ), ed to mandate removal of websites engaging in activities deemed as primarily infringement related. This is the first government legislation of this nature and has technology heavyweights and industry experts headlining the opposition.

The bill would allow the DoJ to force DNS providers to block domains, mandate removal from search engines, and force removal from social networking sites based on loosely defined criteria. Without specific predefined guidelines, this bill would allow subjective censorship of the Internet by the government. SOPA gives the government the power to censor the Internet: 1984, Clockwork Orange … the modern day United States? Not if we can help it! Internet heavyweights Google, Facebook, Twitter, the founders of Twitter and Square, founders of YouTube, and many more are in vehement defense of the first amendment and in opposition of the first bill to censor the internet. Twitter buzz from industry experts like Fred Wilson, Anil Dash, Vivek Wadhwa, Michael Arrington, and more, has spread the word throughout the technology community, but has yet to reach the doors of Congress. With hundreds of thousands of tweets against #SOPA, numerous blog posts, and online boycotting of SOPA supporters (like GoDaddy) one would expect a much larger-scale impact.

The surprising truth is that these rumblings go largely unheard on Capital Hill. Even with significant efforts to close the gap, the technology gap between the private and public sector still exists. Current efforts to bring Congress online, although thorough, are very limiting in requiring constituents’ to communicate solely via government-run websites. One of the major issues is that online communication cannot be contained on Congress websites. Communication currently circulates via all major social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. There is limited effort, by Congress, to engage on government legislation issues via social networking sites. Engaging via social media or a ‘social networking customer service’ model, that is becoming prevalent in private organizations, is still largely missing in government. There are some pioneers in government like the White House, and select politicians (i.e. Bloomberg) that are bridging the technology gap by engaging via social networking websites, but the majority of politicians and Congress remain unaware.

Another major contributor to the communication gap between the Internet and Congress is the lack of constituency statistics. Because most incumbent politicians only recognize feedback from constituents, and location information is not always readily available in many forms of social media, politicians are unsure of whether any buzz they hear is from their constituents. This exacerbates the ongoing issue with unheard opposition to SOPA.

As the culture continues to change and communication continues to gravitate towards social networking sites, government engagement via social networks with the intent of gauging public/constituent opinion on legislation and political issues will inevitably become a standard practice. Until this happens, however, alternate methods of communication need to be applied to communicate with the respective incumbents.

how to talk to congress about sopaImage Source: Information Diet

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