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Progress against SOPA (mattcutts.com)
279 points by sathishmanohar on Nov 21, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 61 comments

>So if we can make it through the next 20-25 years, the people in power will protect technology for us, not fear it.

No, they won't. They will be the same corporate sellouts as they are today because we keep thinking like this. That mentality needs to die.

We cannot rely on those in power to "protect technology for us" - or anything else, for that matter. We have to do it ourselves. The situation won't magically fix itself just because we sheepishly wait for two or three decades.

People have to realize that most, if not all authority is naturally opposed to progress. Authority depends on the status quo, and will try everything in its power to preserve that. The internet is probably the largest threat to authority in the history of mankind. The recoil against it therefore was not only predictable, but inevitable.

The internet as it is today is the largest functioning system of anarchy that has ever existed - and on a planetary scale, no less. That's scary to some people, if not utterly terrifying. But it's the way forward. Authority trying to preserve itself by all means possible is nothing new. It's to be expected, and must likewise be resisted with every available countermeasure - atterete dominatum.

> People have to realize that most, if not all authority is naturally opposed to progress.

That is absolutely true, but as the people in power get younger, their reference point for what counts as "progress" advances. Politicians who grew up in the iPad era will be reactionaries against some as-yet-unconceived-of technological or social change, not against iPads.

I'd have to disagree, we had multiple presidents who were drug users; the hippies are in power now, and the war on drugs marches on.

They smoke, but don't inhale.

That was yester-year's white lie. Since then Marion Barry was re-elected as mayor of DC. GWB admitted not only to use, but substance abuse. Obama not only admitted to using pot and cocaine, but cracked a joke about the silliness of Clinton's dodge.

Using drugs is simply another thing that the ruling class openly admits to doing and doesn't suffer notably for, while they throw the book at any other citizen for doing the same, or less.

e.g. dodging taxes, soliciting prostitutes, cheating on their spouses, not paying child support, hiring illegal immigrants and maybe even covering up the odd mysterious death.

Because politicians will largely enact policies which enable them to be re-elected.

I don't know the specifics but I strongly suspect that coming out against the war on drugs will lose them more support than it would gain them. Support in terms of some mix of votes, finance, influence and connections.

If this was un-true then some politician would have realised that standing for legalisation would win them an election and would have done so by now.

>but as the people in power get younger

Except they aren't. If at all, they will be getting older. But anyways, age doesn't really matter. Neither does understanding of the current technology. It's the fact that we allow corporations to buy out the government, and continuously run away from responsibility by telling us that 'things are surely going to change in x years / with the next election'. It's highly delusional.

If we want to change something, we can't wait for some authority (usually the government) to solve our problems. We've got to do it ourselves. With or without its consent, and - if required - against it. This resolution is the catalyst for everything else.

Sorry, I was unclear. By "younger" I mean "born later". This has to happen in the long term, unless human life expectancy increases at a rate of more than one year per year.

Okay, thanks for clearning that up. It doesn't change my point though.

My point is that in 20-25 years, the fight to protect the internet will be easier--not completely hands off, but easier--because more people will understand technology. But in the mean time, we absolutely do have to take action to protect the net ourselves.

> "more people will understand technology"

When has this ever happened? As technologies approach the refinement of appliances, it looks to me like the general understanding plummets. Under-the-hood complexity all but kills the tinker class and buries the professional class in detail that further muddies their attempts to talk to the average person.

Consider hardware issues. In absolute numbers there may be more hardware tinkers than 25 years ago. But as a ratio of technologists, they're shrinking. And as relevant to popular opinion and voting, the general public has no more (though not clearly less) understanding or appreciation for hardware freedom issues. Trusted computing, the issue of yesterday's hardware freedom battles, is simply the reality of mobile computing.

If the RIAA tried today to lobby for a law that all Interstate highways include checkpoints to search cars for infringing copies of movies or books, they wouldn't find a sponsor. This is not because the public has a deep understanding of auto mechanics. It's because the public understands that traveling at highway speeds is desirable and checkpoints to serve a special interest are not. It's hard to sway people today by arguing that highways make it too easy to transport infringing copies.

> "It's because the public understands that traveling at highway speeds is desirable and checkpoints to serve a special interest are not."

15 years ago I'd be agreeing with you. But the drunk driving checkpoints, the Patriot Act checkpoints, border security and the TSA nonsense makes it a little difficult for me to trust the public's ability to recognize serving a special interest for what it is, when it's bearing a promise that honest citizens have nothing to fear.

If the RIAA were lobbying for checkpoints, if they insisted it would only affect "rogue" streets and that the critics of their proposal were just those who profited from the flow of illegal goods, I honestly would not feel comfortable enough to bet money on whether people pushed back.

Absolutely. The madness of TSA checkpoints which everyone glibly accepts while privately thinking it is a giant waste of time proves your point well.

Everyone always thinks these things will make things better for them, while assuming it will cost them nothing.

And as always, some hawk will be saying 'won't someone think of the children'.

General understanding of appliances may not be very detailed, but on the other hand, we've got the first-sale doctrine, Magnuson-Moss, the Clayton Act, and others that make buying and selling tangible consumer goods more or less fair, reasonable, and predictable even to those who don't know much about those laws or the technology at issue.

When you buy a car, you don't need to worry about whether getting an oil change from Jiffy Lube will get you in trouble the next time you take the car to the dealer for repairs. Those issues are settled, but not for cyberspace. When you buy software or hardware that includes software, no assumptions are safe, and you have to know quite a bit about the law and technology to figure out what your rights might be.

Consider hardware issues. In absolute numbers there may be more hardware tinkers than 25 years ago. But as a ratio of technologists, they're shrinking.

I'm not sure this is true. I'm not saying it isn't, but it's at least not obvious. (Unless you're counting, say, anybody who today owns a smartphone as a technologist.)

I was just relying on personal experience with programmers and IT people.

When I started programming 20 years ago, pretty much anyone who worked at any level with computers could build a PC. These days, half the programmers I know can barely maintain their machines, let alone build one from parts. [1]

If you told them they should oppose some piece of legislation because it would bar them from loading whatever OS they wanted on the hardware they purchased, they would (and do) shrug. They fully consider their choice to be synonymous with the hardware they bought in the first place. They don't think it at all odd that Android phones ship with locked bootloaders.

[1] I don't mean to disparage them; some of them are fantastic programmers. That said, I do know far too many of them who are running home wifi with whatever configuration the Comcast/UVerse guy set up.

Assuming your experience is not isolated, I find that very scary.

Well, I have always found the oldest documentation of a network or computing principle to be the clearest because it usually has not been so obscured by later attempts to make sense of it....

How many folks do I have to explain why the Open Systems Interconnect network model doesn't match what happens with TCP/IP over the wire?

I do think that we've create a class of specialists who protect their specialties in part through obfuscation.

Absolutely right. The rate of new people understanding technology is pretty rapid at first, but then flatlines. I think actually less people understand how a car works than 2 generations ago, but when the Model T first made it to mass market the number of people who understood how the automobile works grew each year. But that trend couldn't have continued or everyone would be an expert mechanic by now, and that obviously isn't the case even though more people than ever own a car.

I totally disagree. In fact, I would say the only thing that's saved us thus far is that those in power don't understand technology. If they would have been able to see what the internet was capable of, they would never have allowed it to be so open. When the day comes that the power hungry know technology as well as we do the real fight will begin.


The thing about "understanding" and "misunderstanding" is that since any censorship approach would break the web, any effort at censorship benefits from "playing dumb", not describing the complexity of the situation and instead reducing things to simple claims like "we need to stop the bad stuff on the net..."

The one thing that might help us in twenty years is that public might be sophisticated enough to not be as easily fooled by such claims. On the other hand, seventy years of an automobile-based society has not made everyone into auto mechanics...

If technology stood still, that might work. In 20-25 years, all politicians will understand the web and email, but the same kind of politician that today is ignorant of the web will then be ignorant of technologies x, y, and z that are new and cutting edge.

I think, this is a dangerous illusion, nothing will get easier, there will always be enemies of freedom, fighting hard for their goals (control, exploit, suppress others)! I suppose, this fight is a never ending story.

I think this overlooks the underlying trend, which is the growth in lobbying funds. Until the linear growth upwards of lobbying funding changes, I don't think it will make any difference what the average makeup of people will be.

If anything, future voters who are being born today will grow up with internet services intwined in their lives, and may be even less understanding of the free and open nature of the internet. They may be broadly brand-loyal to an internet property that doesn't yet exist. Imagine a Facebook size company that is for SOPA-like laws because it is funded by vested interests.

No, I'm not optimistic about these things getting better over time. I actually think it needs a second-amendment type intervention to cut off these types of approaches in the future. 'The right to keep and bear websites' - that type of thing.

On the other hand, one thing the internet is good at is routing around attempts to damage it. I can see alternative systems popping up quickly to counteract any regulatory damage to DNS.

It isn't that congresspeople (or voters) don't understand, or like, technology. The funding chart in your post is all the explanation that is necessary.

Matt, Why do you think so? This isn't obvious to me.

If I said "I need to change my spark plugs." to you today, would you understand what I mean?

If I said it to your ancestors in 1911, would they understand what I mean?

Over time, the median understanding across the majority of the world of any particular technology goes up as more people get exposed to it and its intricacies. As I understand it, Matt is saying that a larger majority of the world will understand the details behind the internet and its vulnerabilities, thus making it easier to communicate why the issues are important.

I can't speak for Matt, but the argument I would use is that the current politicians are largely from the generations that preceded the technological revolution. Given another generation (~25 years), more of the Internet generation will be in control.

It speaks to a larger problem with the American political system, in my opinion, which is that the decisions that affect the next two or three generations are being made by people who came of age two or three generations ago, giving the status quo an undesirable inertia.

Yeah, just like the generation that dropped acid at Woodstock is now running the DEA.

I propose we create technological means of resistance as opposed while maintaining enough political resistance to allow our technological resistance to mature.

Geeks are not good at politicking but we're good at technology.

Yea, I am advocating retraining legacy MBAs now if possible instead of waiting until they die for similar reasons.

The lawyers (patent, copyright, Congress), not the MBAs, are at the heart of the problem.

The legacy MBAs are the ones who are lobbying Congress etc, not only on this but also on the financial crisis etc. (I am thinking in particular OWS, for example.)

So if we can make it through the next 20-25 years, the people in power will protect technology for us, not fear it.

Remind me how well this has worked out for the War on Drugs.

Just as a counterpoint, I'll drop this link: http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2009/11/05/support-for-... . The articles notes that "The data supports the notion that younger people are more supportive of gay marriage than older people ... 18-29 year-olds in Alabama, for example, are more supportive of gay marriage than people 65 and older in Massachusetts."

Several issues that currently divide the United States have this property where age matters, and in 20-25 years things that are controversial now might not be considered as controversial. My claim (hope?) is that protecting the internet is one of those issues.

Right? We can still have hope, I suppose.

That's the thing - its not just about the representative and his/her values, it's about the constituents. There's still too many people alive and voting who oppose eg marijuana legalization to touch it. I think that's going to take another couple decades of attrition.

Luckily, even old people like the Internet.

There are also a lot of young people being brought up conservative. I don't believe conservatism is going to magically disappear after a few generations, we can only hope that exposure to global cultures build tolerance: to spread global culture we need an open internet so it's our responsibility to fight for this, as I see it (though, that statement is a given in here).

I hope that's true. I'm worried that it will be too easy to avoid reality by staying with comfortable, ideologically compatible sources -- which is a problem regardless of ideology.

It seems to me that if Google, Facebook, etc. really wanted to effect change, just redirect their homepages to a message about SOPA and why this legislation is detrimental to the economy, etc. That would be better than any lobbying money spent in Congress. It could be the "emergency broadcast system" of sorts. I suspect that the inundation of phone calls from constituents unable to search for Thanksgiving recipes utilizing their favorite search engine would make my vote awfully easy.

This is a fantastic point. While perhaps it would be too detrimental to their respective services (how many $/min would Google and its ad partners lose?), this would really hit people across the US quickly and hopefully piss them of enough to phone someone.

Yeah, I can't even imagine the things that Facebook could accomplish if they held their site hostage for just one hour.

So it looks like we're headed for a temporary reprieve, and that's great, but as long as Big Content continues to lobby as heavily as it does, we will continue to face these attacks on the Internet. What are companies like Google doing to ensure that the Internet is not run by Hollywood? At some point, the tech industry is going to have to hold its nose and get into the lobbying game in a serious way if we want to prevent future attacks like SOPA. We are in no way helped by the fact that a lot of software companies lobbied in support of it. How are we going to counteract that, if not with increased lobbying efforts?

I'm confused by at least the tone of your question, because this is exactly what companies like Google are doing to ensure that the Internet is not run by Hollywood. They testified against SOPA in Congress, and Matt Cutts' article includes a bar graph showing how much they spent lobbying.

10% of what the other team spent.

>What are companies like Google doing to ensure that the Internet is not run by Hollywood?

I'm really sorry to break it to you, but Google will not give half a damn about the internet being run by Hollywood as long as they can still mine data and serve ads. "Don't be evil", they say, but that does by no means equal "fight evil". Google isn't some saintly figurehead of internet freedom, they are a corporation like every other, just with better PR.

I agree that Google acts in its own interests, but they sure do care about the internet being run by Hollywood. With a locked-down internet and strong copyright legislation, Hollywood/other content owners would own all the ad spots and would cut Google out of the loop.

Google is better off with a decentralized internet of "amateur" content* on which they can serve ads and negotiate a cut of the revenue.

* Pirated content would work for them too, but it's not remotely worth their while to be publicly anti-copyright or to not comply with U.S. law.

This is true. Google would prefer that the internet were run by the largest adware company in the world (which is ironically named after a very large number).....

But the point here is that the decentralization of the internet actually protects everyone. It prevents a single set of interests from trampling over everyone else's interests.

It's not only the content. I'm sure a large proportion of Google's engineers wouldn't be happy with their jobs if they became beholden to Hollywood.

Off topic, but the large 'Stop Censorship' banner on Matt's site makes it look like 'Stop Censorship and SEO'. Too funny.

Screenshot: http://i.imgur.com/aXST6.jpg

Considering Matt's day job, that might not be an accident! :-)

I don't think the fight is really "Hollywood vs. Internet" since there are some tech companies who are big on the Internet, who have not come out against the bill--like Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, etc. I'm guessing that it is more of a fight between business models--distributing "pro" content vs. aggregating user-generated content.

There are some fine lines being walked in the tech industry. Microsoft hates piracy of their package software, but Bing would face all the same legal issues under SOPA that Google would.

Google wants to maximize freedom for Search and YouTube, but they are also trying to buddy up to big content for products like Google TV and the new music service.

The BSA changed their position: http://t.co/jSw3i6bf

I also think that whatever support for SOPA there is inside Microsoft or Apple or the others (if they indeed support SOPA) has nothing to do with piracy of their package software.

Microsoft at least was built by thriving on piracy. For instance China is one of the biggest consumers of pirated Microsoft software. Do you know what people would do if the Chinese government would find a way to force people to comply right now? Some of them would buy Windows / Office, but a majority won't as Windows / Office is too expensive relative to their monthly income. However China is the biggest emerging market and Microsoft would be stupid to prefer the revenue of a couple of users versus the domination of an entire market full of possibilities.

Just as in the case of software patents, these companies aren't interested in protecting their innovations. Instead they are interesting in having bullets to attack disruptive competition.

It's all about preserving the status quo.

The BSA is trying to walk the same fine line as everyone else.

I am not a US citizen, but looking at the graph, I really wonder...given that the stake is quite high and their collective cash hoard is huge, why don't the Internet companies spend more on lobbying?

I understand it's not their nature to do so, but the practical considerations certainly encourage that, right? Or are there other non-obvious factors involved?

    - Republican Representative Darrell Issa and Democratic
     Representative Nancy Pelosi came out against the bill.
I wonder if there was, perhaps, a much more well known Republican Representative that came out against the bill at the same time Issa did, and if so, why he wasn't mentioned?

I hate to break it to you, but Ron Paul has way less influence on the Republican establishment than whoever the hell Issa, because he doesn't play ball. Also there's media bias, but mostly it's that he, and those like him, have next to no influence because they don't shift the median.

It's good to see that at least some people in power hear the voice of reason over the voices of lobbyists.

It is freaking crazy that a progress report concerning a piece of public legislation should have to contain a bar graph comparing which side has spent more money.

When money influences the outcome, something other than democracy is at work.

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