You know that whole Stop Online Privacy Act that threatens to give our government control to basically turn off whatever part of the internet they want? It’s really scary. And cable news networks don’t really care about it enough to cover it. Or they’re simply afraid to poke at their corporate overlords because of it. Or they’re part of a vast conspiracy theory to help it pass.
SOPA, short for the Stop Online Piracy Act, is a bill making its way through Congress, fueled by Hollywood’s lobbying dollars. Essentially, it would give the American government the opportunity to hit the kill switch on any domain accused of hosting violations of copyright, sight-unseen and without due process. That would be bad. The Internet knows this, Important People On The Internet know this, and they seem to be working very hard to make people aware of it.
Unfortunately, their efforts—at least as far as money is concerned—might not be enough to match the power of Hollywood’s lobbying cash.
DAVID KARP DOESN’T SEEM LIKELY FOR POLITICS. When the Tumblr founder and CEO explains what happened over the weekend, he speaks about it in his typically blazing conversational speed, a full paragraph at a time, with the intensity of someone who’s been sequestered on a coding project for the last three days:
“Basically,” he blasts off, “we had this gathering of the internet in our office, we had seventy people and a bunch of politicians on the phone”—and then pulls back to divest himself of credit—”though we didn’t organize the effort, it was the Demand Progress guys. We just put them up in our office, where we had forty-plus people around. We were in here all day on Saturday. We basically showed up to just say, ‘hey, anything we can develop we’ll help develop, in direct communication with dozens of people,’ and basically all of these founders and people in tech companies are standing by following all this,'” and by ‘this,’ Mr. Karp is referring to a piece of legislation going through Congress—”developing, working to figure out how they can seed it in their communities—propagate it—and get it out there. We literally just finished the copy, we had our team of engineers help build it.”
And yesterday morning, these efforts went live, the center of which was a quirky, live collage of user-submitted photos from those with jobs in the tech/online platform entitled I Work For The Internet that provoked the call to Mr. Karp. That was at the beginning of the day.
Tumblr’s 32.5 million users woke up last week to a vision of a dystopian future. ““WTF,” a frustrated fashionista working on her own startup wrote to Betabeat. “I can’t see any of my god damn archives. UGGGGHHH.”
Logging in to their dashboards, where they browse the stream of posts from the blogs they follow, users were greeted with text and images that were blacked out like the redacted sections of a classified briefing.
Those obscured blogs represented Tumblr’s take on American Censorship Day, a protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which was going before a hearing of the Congressional Judiciary Committee that afternoon. The bill would allow companies to sue service providers like Tumblr or Facebook for hosting content like copyrighted music files or movies, a big reversal from the safe harbor provisions which had long defined internet piracy law.
The startup community, both entrepreneurs and the investors who back them, had been raising the alarm for several weeks about their concerns that this bill would cripple their ability to innovate and damage the internet economy. But if SOPA was the first real test of the political muscle of the entrepreneurs and small-business owners who are driving the tech sector, it was a test they would fail. Whether SOPA eventually becomes law or not, the issue provided a clear illustration to many in the startup world that they may be frighteningly unprepared to navigate the dangerous waters of Capitol Hill, where buttonholing trumps beta-testing and hard-nosed lobbying beats “likes.”
“We’ve got all these blogs and these Twitter followers, but when it comes to politics, I worry that we’re the tree falling in the wood and nobody is hearing us,” said Fred Wilson, New York’s most prominent venture capitalist and an outspoken opponent of the SOPA bill.
Today, if you haven’t heard, is American Censorship Day: wherein several websites, large tech companies, and boldfaced names in the technology community lent their help to get the word out about
The redirect sent you to a page informing you about SOPA and what you can do (like dial up a Congressional representative) about Read More
A year ago the fiery Democrat who represents Brooklyn and Queens famously told The Observer, “I follow Twitter for the Tea Party and just show up to fuck with them.”