After Action Report on SOPA: Disrupting Advocacy

by on January 26, 2012 · 1 comment

On Forbes yesterday, I posted a detailed analysis of the successful (so far) fight to block quick passage of the Protect-IP Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). (See “Who Really Stopped SOPA, and Why?“)  I’m delighted that the article, despite its length, has gotten such positive response.

As regular readers know, I’ve been following these bills closely from the beginning, and made several trips to Capitol Hill to urge lawmakers to think more carefully about some of the more half-baked provisions.

But beyond traditional advocacy–of which there was a great deal–something remarkable happened in the last several months. A new, self-organizing protest movement emerged on the Internet, using social news and social networking tools including Reddit, Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter to stage virtual teach-ins, sit-ins, boycotts, and other protests.

The article describes the political philosophy and origins of this movement, which I called “bitroots” activism. I warn both fans and detractors about the dangers facing this new global political force as it navigates the delicate transition from single-issue protest to a sustainable voice in shaping technology law and regulation.

But so far, at least, supporters of PIPA and SOPA won’t even acknowledge the existence of this third front, dismissing it as a stunt perpetrated by a few large technology companies.  That response not only misses the point, but makes clear the need for new forms of political dialogue over technology issues in the fist place.

As someone who spends time both in Silicon Valley and inside the Beltway, I’ve long been concerned about the lack of informed conversations between innovators and regulators, especially as the two come increasingly into conflict as their worlds move closer together. (That was the central theme of The Laws of Disruption, now available practically for free on Amazon!)

Now that the bitroots movement has coalesced, I can’t wait to see where it goes next. I have high hopes for this new awareness and activism, and for their intuitive understanding that the innovations that enable them are their best weapons for changing the political dialogue. Who knows? They may even wind up disrupting traditional forms of advocacy.

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