The online world is quickly waking up to the political reality that the government is slowly but surely attempting to regain power over the Internet.
The people who brought us SOPA and PIPA seem to think they built the Internet, not us. The bills they support are variations on a theme: The Internet has seriously run amok, and the government is here to bail us all out — even if it means censorship and a loss of future innovation and creativity. The latest way the anti-SOPA crowd is fighting back against government encroachment on the Internet is not a new Reddit campaign, a Wikipedia blackout or a “Stop SOPA” campaign across Twitter. It’s decidedly a bit old school: a new lobbying group to stick up for the average Internet user in Washington.
At least, that’s the official platform of the Internet Association, a lobbying group that, as the Post’s Cecilia Kang reports, officially launched on Wednesday with the support of 14 of tech’s biggest players, including Google, Facebook, Amazon, Yahoo, eBay, AOL and LinkedIn. Notably, consumer tech giants Microsoft and Apple are not listed on the founders’ roll. Even companies often at odds, such as Google and Facebook — of which The Washington Post Co.’s Chairman Donald Graham is a board member — are putting aside their differences to combine forces to stop the onslaught of Internet legislation that’s threatened to shut down the people’s Web.
It’s hard to argue with a lobbying platform that calls for “a free and innovative Internet” and unabashed support for entrepreneurial activity and empowering users. The only thing that rings a bit untrue to the current ethos of the Web is the lobbying group’s decidedly un-Webby name.
For now, the online activity of the Internet Association (the “IA”) has been mostly limited to name-checking all of the big-time members who have joined the movement to protect the Web from government over-reach. (Facebook in the house! AOL in the house!) Oh, and there’s a cool introductory video for IA complete with Nyan Cat and other references to the Internet’s greatest hits.
And that’s what the real job of the IA needs to be — to ensure that the Internet continues to be the freewheeling, cat-loving and meme-inspiring place we’ve all comet to know and love. There’s not a government in the world that could have come up with the idea of open source collaboration (”you mean, we share our IP with others for free?”) or the sometimes anarchic system of sharing, mixing and then re-mixing that has become the hallmark of the people’s Web.
Going forward, IA need to ensure that the key players in Washington realize that the people building the modern Web do not consider themselves to be part of the 47 percent, 53 percent, 99 percent or 1 percent. When our politicians talk about entrepreneurship, innovation and competitiveness these days, they’re often really thinking about behemoth corporations and the types of tax cuts and politically-motivated moves that will turbo-charge the next quarter. Instead, they should be thinking long-term and talking about keeping it cool for kids to finish school, study programming and make their first job working at a startup with the potential to change the world. We built the Internet — let’s not forget it.
Dominic Basulto is a digital thinker at Bond Strategy and Influence (formerly called Electric Artists) in New York. Prior to Bond Strategy and Influence, he was the editor of Fortune’s Business Innovation Insider and a founding member of Corante.com, one of the Web’s first blog media companies. He also shares his thoughts on innovation on the Big Think Endless Innovation blog and is working on a new book on innovation called “Endless Innovation, Most Beautifuland Most Wonderful.”
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