UPDATE: This story has been corrected to reflect that Mr. Ryan, rather than being an explicit supporter of SOPA, has not taken a public stance on the bill.
Alternate headline: Paul Ryan Opponent Rob Zerban On Track to Be the First Politician Elected by Reddit.
For days, Reddit has been dominated by stories about SOPA, GoDaddy and the Congress members who are pushing the DMCA-supplanting bill forward. After a successful boycott of GoDaddy, which allegedly helped write SOPA, Redditors turned their sights on the politicians supporting the bill. ” As one Redditor wrote in a wildly popular post: “Let’s pick ONE Senator of voted for NDAA/SOPA and destroy him like we’re doing for GoDaddy. Relentlessly investigate and find skeletons in his closet, money bomb is [sic] opponents, etc. It [sic] we could unseat someone and destroy their career it would have massive repercussions.”
Mr. Ryan has a 54 percent favorable rating with his constituents, but polls suggest challenger Mr. Zerban has a chance. The Reddit community rallied around Mr. Zerban. Members of the subreddit OperationPullRyan (1,554 subscribers) encouraged Mr. Zerban to show up for an “Ask Me Anything (AMA)”. He did so yesterday; the thread racked up 1,874 comments.
“Since I came out against the overreach of SOPA, we have had an incredible outpouring of support across the internet,” Mr. Zerban said in an email to Betabeat. “Donations are spiking and people are going to www.robzerban.com in much greater numbers. To me, it reflects the power of the internet as a tool for democracy and that is what I love so much about it and what to make sure we protect.”
Mr. Zerban’s answers on Reddit were thorough and thoughtful. In a typical exchange:
5) Is waterboarding torture? Do you support enhanced interrogation?
Yes it is torture. No, I do not.
6) What is your stance on Afghanistan? Should the US keep a presence there? Iraq?
We need to get out.
7) Should marijuana be decriminalized?
8) Have democrats of the last 10 years been insufferably feeble? Agree or disagree.
I see what you did there ಠ_ಠ . I believe each individual should be judged on their own record.
9) Do you have cats? Do you have pictures of cats? Those usually go over well here.
Sorry, no cats. I do have two dogs: Barley & Hops
Redditors bemoaned the candidates lack of cats (he’s allergic). But otherwise the aspiring Congressman seemed to pass Reddit muster. His most important qualification: opposition of SOPA.
Mr. Zerban’s stance on SOPA:
SOPA is a complex issue but here is how I approach it- the first thing to remember is that our free speech is our most fundamental right as Americans and this is critical to our society and economy. It is also critical to innovation and this process of free speech, which we are doing right now on reddit, is what enables us to share and develop the ideas that impact the world.
We need to preserve the free nature of the internet. I believe that more and more people are going to pay for content they enjoy to be able to use on many devices and in different formats, and the benefit to a company of brand growth, new fans, and advertising, can be a great benefit. Companies need to start thinking outside of the box and leveraging the exposure to greater benefit.
There are many online companies that oppose SOPA including Google, Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, eBay, Mozilla, Yahoo, AOL, and LinkedIn. These companies wrote a letter to key members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, saying SOPA poses “a serious risk to our industry’s continued track record of innovation and job creation, as well as to our nation’s cybersecurity.” I think where it goes too far is that it allows unilateral measures to revoke IP addresses or domain names. In short, I recognize the need for content providers to be able to profit and benefit from their work but there needs to be a middle ground approach to this issue.