Now, We Need to Build the Internet Defense System

We did well. It was almost too late, but the rallying cry was loud and clear — we would not let a back room, lobbyist-driven bill that will restrict free speech, hamper innovation, and jobs.

But it was too close for comfort. I’d like to sit back and savor this moment, but I feel like a man who almost got shiv’d in the back in broad daylight. I don’t feel at ease with the current state of the world.

Piracy still exists, and as long as big media believes it hurts their bottom line, their hundred-million-dollar lobbying machine will continue to peddle their Dark Arts — campaign dollars, ex-senators, and lobbyists — to pass more bills like this. Maybe next time, we won’t notice. Maybe next time, they’ll add it to another bill as an amendment. Maybe next time, they’ll have a sympathetic White House. There are too many ways for the anti-Internet Freedom lobby to win.

There’s the short-term task of actually passing an anti-piracy bill that doesn’t restrict free speech and encourages innovation. Without a viable way to shut down truly illegal actors with due process, the anti-piracy lobby will continue to assault Internet freedom — and we’ll be back here again. The Internet groups (not just companies, but users) need to sit down and talk to them. The OPEN Act is much better, but I stil have some major reservations.

Long-term, there is much work to do.

First, we need an early warning system against those who seek to cripple Internet freedoms.
We need to know when the slippery slope begins before we’re rushing down it. We need a good lead time in order to create effective defenses. Think of this also as a diplomatic mission: With the ability to bring the other side to the table, we can stop the war before it begins.

Second, we need to educate Congress and we need Congress to educate us.
This means understanding how the legislative and lobbying ecosystems work. We need to show Congress that trying to pass the bill restricting the Internet yet professing “I’m no nerd” makes them ignorant buffoons worth voting out. And that requires people in the hallways of Congress shaking hands, making friends, and talking about our needs.

Third, but not least, we need to build and coordinate engines of mobilization.
The fact that we caught this bill days from a vote caused many of us to bring out the big guns — the blackout. Without the last-minute support of Wikipedia and Google, I don’t know what the outcome would have been. Even so, many sites continued to focus on SOPA when PIPA was the urgent need, this was a fight where every call mattered, yet we didn’t get the message out right — and that was just one of many coordination errors. We need an easier way to deploy calls, emails and votes to candidates that support Internet Freedom and even rally mainstream celebrities to our cause. We need to start building lists for mobilization and coordinate the efforts.

If you get robbed, you install locks, and learn how to protect yourself. We almost got robbed, even though we had some of the elements I listed above. But clearly, it’s not a strong enough system. The next step is to start generating ideas and building an Internet Defense System.

(This post is copyright free and now in the public domain. Copy and paste the crap out of it.)

Posted on January 20, 2012, in Business. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I’m pretty worried about this ACTA treaty as well… Not many know about it.

  2. Well said. A more co-ordinated effort is needed for the future. Re-posted on my blog. Let the internet stand together and face the future.

  3. I think in addition we need bills passed that actively prohibit broad-sweeping extra-judicial Internet cencorship.

  4. Ben, this is a great call to action to safeguard from future attempts to “control” the Internet. Access to and Uncensorship of the Internet needs to be a Universal Human Right. Keep of the good work and let me know how I can help.


  5. take away my real freedom, the #ndaa message, not a peep.

    take away my virtual freedom, the #sopa message, huge outcry.

    america is so weird.

  6. Given how the USA’s political system currently works maybe what we should do it use the Internet to work within the system?

    Imagine a website call “” (or similar) that allowed people to register the issues they care about and then collectively route funds on there issues to hire collective lobbyists for the issue along with “bundled” campaign donations?

    If 1% of US citizens were to join this and each pledge just $10 that would be ~$30 million available for lobbying. If 1% gave $100 each, that would be ~$300 million, probably enough to get a president elected today.

    If I lived in DC and wasn’t already toiling on an under-funded startup I’d grab this one by the horns. But I bet the Cheezeburger Network could make it a reality?

  7. Numbers X. Goodwin

    There were other “poison pills” in the legislation that they could not support. It’s typical in washington for them to tack on riders to bills that change it totally.

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