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So, you want to stop SOPA, huh? Well, what you're doing just isn't going to work, I'm afraid, and not by a long shot. I realize that boycotting SOPA supporting companies is emotionally satisfying and all (yeah, screw GoDaddy!) and it's kind of fun imagining the reaction of the handful of companies that get disinvited from YC's Demo Day because of it, but does anyone seriously think this matters to, or is even on the radar of, the people voting on this bill - you know, Congress? The unequivocal answer is no. Not remotely.

What matters is money. Cold, hard cash. I know this isn't what you learned in your high school civics class, which I never took because my high school didn't offer it, but I did watch School House Rock's - I'm Just a Bill about a hundred times as a kid and having observed politics (sometimes passively and other times aggressively) I am now pretty convinced the version implied by that cartoon was as much of a fantasy as the animated bill itself (slight sarcasm - sorry).

The unfortunate reality is that our government is almost entirely manipulated by money, either in the form of campaign donations, perks paid for by lobbyists, pork barrel spending, or the proverbial revolving door between government and the large companies it's charged with regulating (generally referred to as industry capture). What, you don't believe me? I could spend hours dredging up links to story after story of how corrupt Washington has become, but since I know you're not going to read them anyway, just listen to this recent interview with Jack Abramoff on Planet Money and that should be a nice eye opener for you:

Look, I know this makes me sound like a cynic and all, and believe me I like the fantasy as much as everyone else, but unless you want SOPA to pass (and unfortunately it may already be too late), then it's time to get serious and face reality on its own terms. The pro-SOPA faction lead by the RIAA, MPAA and the like are not screwing around, and the only realistic way to repel their offensive is to fight fire with fire. That's right. In order to have even the slightest chance of repelling this bill a lot of money is going to have to be spent paying off the politicians. I know it's a dirty game and you want no part of it, but that's what it's going to take. If you want to win in Washington, then you need to know the rules of the game, and the rules say that he who spends the most money wins (usually).

The open letter opposing SOPA, which you can read here

and was signed by Marc Andreessen, Sergey Brin and the like did a nice job of at least clarify the position of the Silicon Valley elite, but those words have to be backed up with real money, otherwise they'll just be ignored. In other words, they need to sign more than a letter, they need to sign a check. In fact, they need to sign a lot of checks because their investment in DC simply pales in comparison to what most other industries have been spending and the politicians are well aware of that. If you don't believe me (and why should you), then check out this little chart:

The funny thing is that when you look at the amount of money that's being spent to purchase influence in Washington, it's embarrassingly small. The sum total invested by the pro-SOPA media conglomerates in 2011 is a paltry $94M. That's nothing for the top 20 anti-SOPA companies to ante up. Didn't Google just buy Apture for a rumored $20M, something that CloudFlare cloned (or at least 90% cloned) in a mere 24 hours?

While I'm sure Apture had some cute tech and a few smart coders - come on! Google has something like $43 billion in cash and securities and all Sergey Brin can manage to do is sign a letter. That's beyond embarrassing. That's accepting defeat without even trying. That's pathetic.

I'm not trying to say that Google should buy off Washington all by itself, but they should be the lead investor. They're the wealthiest, most influential Internet company on the planet, whose success is due not just to their much touted cleverness and technical skill, but because the Internet is what it is and they should play a significant role in protecting it. The same goes for all of the other big shots that signed the letter as well as for the thousands of successful tech CEOs, VC and angel investors who didn't. With great power comes great responsibility. It's time Silicon Valley stepped up.
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One strategy is for the tech community to utilize internet guerrilla warfare with these organizations. So they drafted a bill that includes technical deadbolts. Find flaws in them and release technology that circumvents and mocks the measures, illustrating what will happen to the internet if they are implemented. Publicize. Make them rewrite the bill and spend more time and money lobbying congress. Meanwhile build grassroots public momentum behind the cause. Large anti-SOPA tech companies could find creative ways to encourage these types of efforts while educating the greater public directly through their websites. Thanks for the post, I enjoyed reading your perspective.
It is a bill, we are trying to prevent it from becoming a law.
And I your good humor, sir!
This is an interesting read, but I disagree that the "small things" are not helpful. The core of the problem is the mindset that money buys votes and, while tiny actions against individual companies may not do anything to overturn the status quo overnight, I don't think that means that they're not worth doing. In terms of results, Google buying off Washington may be the most effective immediate actionable item, but this puts us into the mindset where using money to influence decision-making is the most effective solution to a problem, and beyond that, we would run into problems if (or maybe already?) Google starts pushes a restrictive agenda. I like to think that the small things affect people's perceptions over time and can make things better in the long-term. Perhaps the younger generation's takeaway from this is that it is OK to argue things using principle and that it is OK to follow technocracy and that will eventually form a basis for what our government will look like in a decade or two. But maybe I'm just being idealist to combat the cynicism :).
yes, money is a problem. and it's a bummer that i don't have more of it to use to augment my one single vote that i can exercise every few years. does that mean i will continue to pay merchants who support views i oppose? no. does that mean that i expect that by "voting with my few dollars" i expect paid elected officials to decide to support my POV? no.

it does, however, mean that i will spend my money, whenever practical, with merchants who i determine support the things that matter to me.

does that make me naive? hardly. i may not be your kind of cynic, but i do think how i spend my time and money matters; if only to me.
You're 100% right with this. When we (Britain) were faced with the Digital Economy Act becoming an active part of our society, the masses of us that were against DEA did exactly what all anti-SOPA protesters are doing right now. It didn't work and DEA got through. The voices of those against it was over-shadowed by the money lobbyists were putting into the fruition of the Act. But having said this, it doesn't mean people should stop voicing their opinions, they need to be heard at the end of the day it's just that much more needs to be done than discussing it on social networks and via blogs. Those that are anti-SOPA need to look at exactly what they are doing now and what those of us that were anti-DEA did. Look at it, see our mistakes, see our successes, see how you can push it further and do it! Because let's face it, those in charge will never ignore the money but they will ignore voices.
Is he suggesting that we have our biggest internet companies bribe the government to do their job and protect the constitution from other big companies that are bribing them to ignore the constitution? Let nature take its course. SOPA may actually wake people up in America to how messed up things are. We clearly live in an entirely corrupt country where 'cold, hard cash' is a requirement for our guaranteed inalienable rights.
I understand your sentiment but you can't just pay to Washington politicians, you have to go in bed with them and that is what tech companies find hard to do. Once you are in the bed with them, you can't go back. I think our tech leaders somehow know this would happen which is why they are reluctant to do that.
I think tech community needs to find some alternative to pressure Washington that would compromise it's ideals. Maybe, permanent transparency and publicity campaign that would out people supporting bills that are detrimental to tech advances.
I am all for paying off politicians, just don't think it would be enough.
Another possible approach is to crowd-source potential take-down notices against supporting congressman and their close relatives and friends. Then send them token messages about what you are going to do the moment the act is signed -- let them start visualize for themselves what it's like on the receiving end...
Huh? Are you serious? Boycotting companies that support SOPA is exactly what we should be doing because that's where the money comes from.

edit: The more I think about it the more your post really pisses me off. Why in the hell are you advocating the advancement of corruption in the government?
Andreessen, Brin, and co. probably are writing some checks, but I imagine they wouldn't talk publicly about it. Maybe they should?
Even though I dislike the tools at "our" (fsvo "our") disposal, I agree that if one's livelihood is at stake, it's essential to use all available tools at our disposal as well as possible. Government isn't just about money buying influence, but the vast amounts of money turn government into a giant poker game. It's time to take a seat at the table.

To the great discussion about well-aimed takedown notices above, I simply note that any laws having to do with Internet protocols should have such a robust test harness.
@Jason:"If you want to win in Washington, then you need to know the rules of the game..."

Well - There is another (harder) way - Don't play the game, change the rules!

As more I think about this, big software companies are maybe the only ones that are and will be able to change the game.
It only takes that "Google"s or "Facebook"s of this world to implement mass scale online voting system (isn't "plus" one like that ?), and eventually pressure from masses will topple the current "Congress rules" status quo.

And as Ben Koshy said "corruption". Maybe it will be solved in India first, as there will soon be billion energized and unsatisfied people there with smartphones who are not sleeping seduced by junk food and tv shows...

So, Yes Sergey Brin could have done more than a letter.
But it would be better if he would do something revolutionary with his resources and not do "what everybody else is doing".
That's an endless game. Congressmen change their minds several times depending on who pays the most. The bills from last year are the ones to repeal this year if someone bribes them to repeal them now. This video of Lawrence Lessig explains it well:

Republic, Lost (my favorite version)
Congress follows the money. The lobbyists work for the Corporations that supply the money. Stop supporting the Corporations that supply the money to create the distortions. GoDaddy boycotts on a much larger and more publicized scale.
Hmmm... This is a dangerous game you play Mr Roberts.

Is this your general view on how your political views should be expressed or is this a one-off, solely to get some weight behind the anti-SOPA movement?

"The pro-SOPA faction ... are not screwing around, and the only realistic way to repel their offensive is to fight fire with fire. That's right. In order to have even the slightest chance of repelling this bill a lot of money is going to have to be spent paying off the politicians."

I'm thinking (hoping) you only mean that for this one case right? Because "lobbying" (bribing) politicians is pretty wrong isn't it? Like you say:

"it's a dirty game and you want no part of it, but that's what it's going to take. If you want to win in Washington, then you need to know the rules of the game, and the rules say that he who spends the most money wins (usually)."

So as long as the cause is justified, it's okay to pay off the politicians? That, my friend, is how all this kind of shit starts. The ends justify the means?

I heard you speak in shocked tones about a new US security law that "allows the military to indefinitely detain without trial American terrorism suspects arrested on US soil who could then be shipped toGuantánamo Bay."

(I notice Obama has reneged on his promise to veto the bill - I wonder if a lot of "lobbying" changed hands?)

So now Americans can be arrested on home soil and imprisoned without due process all in the name of fighting terrorism. They might have information that they're not telling us! Hurry! Water-board them to find out! I don't care if we don't torture people, the end justifies the means!

Extreme example? Well actually, not really. You said yourself how all these extra powers granted by politicians for "extreme cases" are grossly abused by Governments. I bet you plenty of poor suckers are going to wind up feeling the heat of these powers. But I digress...

Do not play their game. It is BULLSHIT. Paying off politicians doesn't change anything. You may win this round, but then there's round 2. And 3. And 4. Huge corporations pile all their money in to changing the law to suit them better. Pretty much the same story of the last hundred years.

How about we actually change a few fundamentals? Or should I say, repair some fundamentals because clearly they've been eroded away by lobbyists and lawyers over time.

There's a global movement of disillusioned people who are sick to death of powerful people throwing their weight around so excessively. They are getting pretty damn angry (and don't want to take it anymore). People like this are working to change the system. That kind of work takes time and is difficult. Everyone would be better off if they channeled their efforts to help make those changes.
Even if we can't stop SOPA from being legislated by boycotting supportive companies, still it's an important move. We need to draw a line and let these guys know that they no longer have access to top talent.
Of course money is a problem. All the proponents top income (fundraising) are 1. TV 2. Movie and 3. Music.
It's ridiculous.
Interesting you did not link to Interesting you did not mention that money in politics is what the 99% movement is all about (or should be, depending where you look). Interesting you don't mention that money in politics is de facto unconstitutional, a.k.a. a person participating in this game is committing an act of treason.
At the same time, this truly is the first post I see around here that has any clue at all - by looking at other people and their view of the system and its problems, I've got the feeling that they must be under some sort of hypnosis or remote influencing which doesn't work on me (and you, obviously), because these people are not stupid, yet they seem to be unable to identify the root issue - which the money in politics is, at least in the visible sphere. They also don't get what SOPA really is - it's an attack to destroy the last barricade protecting us from absolute, raging, unchecked tyranny that will follow after they take internet away from us (so to speak).
Yep. Blogs and tweets about things like SOPA are important for building awareness, but have little influence over legislators. I wonder if it's legal to set up a non-profit to collect donations for the purchase of congresspeople? They're probably pretty cheap now with the stumbling economy. I'll check eBay...
+Joseph Blanchard - But congressmen listen to money, not words. (They also listen to revolving doors and to blackmail and other threats, but let's leave that out for now.) The money comes from corporations. Corporations listen to profits. Profits usually come from people. So people need to be told to start voting with their wallets and things will change. However this won't affect corporations getting paid indirectly, e.g. through taxes (military-industrial complex), so eventually the system will need to be fixed - money will need to be taken out of politics.
Buying congress influence is an investment and is treated as such. Before anyone pays anything to congress they should analyze their potential returns. How much does John Doe get if SOPA doesn't pass? Nothing. He can still download pirated goods, though it will be harder. How much does MPAA get if SOPA passes? Lots of money. The real losers will be technologically illiterate people, who have no idea how to pirate stuff and don't even know what SOPA is. In addition to business that will get shut down.
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