Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Whitehouse.gov petition to veto SOPA (whitehouse.gov)
497 points by orbenn on Dec 18, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 81 comments

I was on a conference call w/ Zoe Lofgren (CA congress woman who is on the Judiciary fighting the hell out of this bill) and a bunch of NYC tech companies last weekend and she said petitions are essentially ignored, and instead to make phone calls to your reps and directly into the capital.

This isn't to say don't sign this, but if you are really concerned, the absolute bottom line is phone calls. Anything you can do to funnel phone calls in is what counts.

Edit: Let me add this, which makes it absurdly easy: http://fightforthefuture.org/

Be sure to read the petition -- unlike most of them, it's actually smart political commentary: It mocks SOPA by having whitehouse.gov itself link to a website that's infringing copyright. The joke is that whitehouse.gov could itself be removed from the DNS system under SOPA.

This is the first use of the White House petitioning system that I think is actually really clever. (Honorable mention: Petition to Please Take Petitions Seriously.)

I did. I think 'cute' is a better term.

Rest assured this will get just as ignored as any other. Please call your rep.

What if your Rep is Polis?

(Assuming Polis is one of the sponsors of SOPA)

Call them anyways. Mention that you're from their district.

Polis is actually "one of us" -- he made a good amount of money doing startups. He opposes SOPA. In this case, call him up and send him some love for doing the right thing.

He's a pretty awesome guy -- check him out here entering the lyrics to "The Internet is for Porn" from Avenue Q into the congressional record: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owyNvlVJ1qE

While that's quite funny, it bothers me that he seems to be arguing for SOPA to effectively not cover porn. Why is it that the intellectual property rights of pornographers should not be protected? Why are their rights not as important as the rights of others?

> It was a brilliant tactical maneuver. First, it delayed discussions while members of the august Judiciary committee wrangled with how to handle this unusual conversational detour. Second, it put SOPA-supporting chairman Lamar Smith, a conservative Republican whose district is largely Texas Hill Country, on the defensive by appearing to show him siding with the intellectual-property rights of people who create triple-X movies.

> Third--and this may have been the point of the entire exercise--it gave Polis an excuse to insert the full lyrics of the popular Internet meme "The Internet is for Porn" into the official congressional hearing record for SOPA. (Representative excerpt: "All these guys unzip their flies / For porn, porn, porn!")

> Because the amendment goes further than obscenity and encompasses "pornography," it could have imperiled the remainder of SOPA. U.S. courts have ruled that pornography is not a legal term of art and is presumptively protected by the First Amendment. > Polis' amendment, in other words, could doom SOPA on constitutional grounds: which "R" rated movies would be pornographic? How about Maxim? Explicit rap lyrics? More to the point, which MPAA and RIAA member companies might have to worry about their products being deemed "pornographic?"


"The Good Soldier Svejk" said that the government that raises the price of beer is destined to fall within one year. I guess same applies to porn…

Whatever happened to that petition? I just checked, and it seems that it reached the threshold.

If I remember correctly, that means they have to respond to it within a month, which would be Dec. 27th?

If Congress can be bought, why not expose the people doing the buying, and their lobbyists, and exert pressure on them instead of writing or calling Congressmen who don't care?

They wouldn't be trying to buy this sort of legislation if they didn't think it was, in balance, in their commercial interests. They've likely already modelled the effect of any consumer backlash in their analysis, so why would they listen to you? They were expecting to lose you anyway.

By "people" I refer to the human beings who run the corporations, not the corporations themselves. I doubt very much that executives behind these moves at corporations have taken being held responsible personally into account. In my opinion, they should be held accountable personally, not only by shareholders, but by society at large.

I believe that corporate executives act with impunity because society, as a whole, has come to consider corporations as people (beyond the legal fiction of Personhood). Executives hide behind this "personhood". Why should we stop at: "BigCo is doing something evil", when the individual board members and executives of BigCo are ultimately the ones who make the decisions?

Zuckerberg, and in an earlier era, Gates, are examples of two CEOs who are held personally liable in the court of public opinion for the misdeeds of their corporations. In my opinion, more of that would be healthy.

Because the bribery is done completely in the open and legally. You get campaign contributions or a cushy contractor position worth millions to you personally. It's not illegal so "exposing" the companies engaging in this behavior won't have much effect on them.

Not the companies. Their corporate officers. A few pickets outside a (morally) corrupt CEOs home, or his country club might make him more careful about future business decisions. As it stands corporations are a useful shield for the sometimes reprehensible actions of the human beings who run them.

Since bribes, as in payment for specific acts, has been illegal in the US for some time now, each donor can hide behind the excuse that they only donated to the candidate, but they don't support them for this particular issue.

I understand the present day practical reason why she thinks that phone calls matter more, I really do, however phone calls are a time inefficient way of accomplishing that result. There are just so many things people could be doing with their lives, including communicating opinion about other political issues, that we should allow all of them to be done as efficiently as possible. An online petition is more efficient. The key is trust. What we really need is some sort of highly automatable, electronic way of voting or expressing political positions in a way that is trustable. We shouldn't not trust some expression of political intent merely because it's fast/efficient, that's almost ridiculous, instead we should only not trust it if it is forged or shilled.

> that we should allow all of them to be done as efficiently as possible

Efficiency is the enemy for things like this, because it only shows a minimum amount of involvement with the issue. You show you care at all by participating in petitions, but you prove you care more by participating in more time-intensive activities.

This is something that you'll see people close to politicians say quite a lot, that the method of communication counts, and a multiplier is used to count your input based on that method. It's why you're supposed to write to your $political_representative on paper rather that firing off an email, and it's why you're supposed to hand write the letter (legibly, please!) rather than typing it. A person who takes an hour or two drafting a compelling response to legislation, writing a final copy by hand, taking it to the post office, affixing a stamp, and mailing it out has shown more concern for the issue than does a guy who goes on HN, sees this link, and fills out a form to effectively just say "yeah, me too, what he said!"

I understood that. It's that there are 1000 other things we need to be doing as humans. plus, I think there are more substantive and focused ways of showing somebody understands a given topic area, spent time on it, and has a meritocratic opinion worth paying attention to it. People who write letters to an editor may show they're passionate about an issue. But is also shows their time has little value, and/or they are an ignorant quack. We need to be able to make a distinction between these cases. And at the same time make it as easy and fast and cheap and painless as possible to vote.

And on November 8th, going into a voting booth, that is all that anyone can do already. Just push a button or fill in a circle which indicates "yeah, me too!". For those cases, let's speed it up and scale it up.

Effectiveness is inversely proportional to efficiency. Phone calls matter more because Congresspeople only have so much time, too, you know? Did you think that anybody ever reads all eight zillion emails sent in about the legality of selling horse meat?

And this is exactly the issue. If this issue isn't important enough for you to invest some of your time to make your opinion known on the subject, then you're probably not going to change your vote on it anyway.

This. Still, as long as Obama hasn't signed NDAA yet there should be one for that too.

Please don't reply with "this". It's a kind of lazy shorthand that doesn't add anything and lowers the overall level of conversation, so you'll be downvoted for it.

That aside, welcome to HN. I hope you enjoy it.

I don't understand this fascination with internet petitions. Hasn't it been demonstrated to the point of absurdity that our government does not care?

Before anyone claims "OH, so we should just do nothing instead????". Posting a dubious e-signature to an internet petition does nothing. There are people out in the streets sleeping in parks getting pepper sprayed and arrested because the government can't simply ignore it (unlike every single internet petition).

Filling out a whitehouse petition is like getting punched in the face by your boss then slipping a folded piece of paper into the complaint box he put in the break-room next to the donuts.

Internet petitions establish in everyones minds that people are for the petition. That's a real effect, whether it is to de-legitimize the government's "reaching out" campaign of the online petitions, or to bolster support by showing other supporters how many others out there support their cause. It's not real in the sense that it will do the thing that the petition is for, but it's real in the sense that it builds support for the thing.

The fascination is with poisoning the well. A lot of people have the interest and energy to do exactly one thing politically, and in this age of OWS and global uprising it's in the interests of the status quo to eliminate the effect of this low-hanging fruit. The people who create and post internet petitions are evil and/or stupid, without exception.

So you're saying that some online petitions are actually meant to diffuse dissent about the thing they're petitioning? That would be a stroke of evil genius if it's true. Doesn't strike me as being the case so much as their being driven by naive idealism, but in the case of the whitehouse one, it's at least conceivable. In the long run, it's probably just going to demonstrate to a lot of people that online petitions are mostly counterproductive.

All internet petitions are simply polls with identifiable voters, making their marks on a non-binding ballot. That petitions are portrayed as effective political acts causes people with only one political act in their schedule to waste their effort.

Online petitions exist to harvest email addresses so they can hit you up for donations and volunteering during the campaign. They're an easy way for campaign staff to build a mailing list of people politically engaged enough to be worth spamming.

This is definitely one of the reasons for online petitions. I doubt that's why Whitehouse.gov exists.

Did you read the petition? It seems like you're missing the joke in this one...

What joke? Four, well reasoned and exceptionally well written petitions have gone up to this very website and the administration responded with insultingly dismissive answers that did not, end the end, address anything.

The "joke" is that the petition links to copyright-infringement hosted on imgur.

Under SOPA, whitehouse.gov would be taken down because someone posted this petition :)

While I agree it's a good "joke", it's unfortunately about as useless as pointing out that people who stole billions and caused a global financial crisis are walking free while people caught stealing a TV are serving years in prison.

Unfortunately, just like every other law, SOPA will only be applied when some high power decides is should be. (and in the case of whitehouse.gov, it never will be)

Every time I've voted on a whitehouse.gov petition, I've gotten an email 6 months later saying why the petition will be completely ignored, answering none of the points the petition brought up.

The petition system is an ineffectual smokescreen.

Seems quite effective to me if it keeps the signers from taking any additional action for 6 months. Its likely doing exactly what those setting it intended.

Lack of communication and inaction are two very different things though. In the case of SOPA, they would pass the bill next week, then email petition singers 6 months after the fact on how anti-American the petition is. The petition in this hypothetical situation didn't delay anything, but prompted a communication at a later date.

You could imagine that one of these petitions might bring an issue that they weren't aware of to some staffer's attention. But this administration clearly already has a very strong view in favor of intellectual property protection by any means available, regardless of the consequences. It's one they've made manifest by pushing ACTA (among other things), and it's really hard to imagine a petition like this changing it.

Yes, think of the future! "If all the time and effort I spent results in just one petition-scanning staffer becoming aware of my pet issue, it will have been worth it." You might as well pin your hopes of affecting the political process on sowing copies of your journal pages around Congress, hoping that just one profound sentence reaches one of their eyes. It doesn't sound like a lot, but man, if they read one of those sentences, right? It could change everything.

I expect that this petition will be just as effective as all the others.

Governmental e-petitions: ignoring the public more efficiently than ever before.

Actually now in britain we have it set up so whenever one of these gets 100,000 votes, it must be debated in parliament. One of the few useful or interesting things cameron has done. Of course they are quite rightly not bound to do anything more than debate it, and in the long run it will probably just be a more efficient way of shutting people up. "Look, we've debated it, we've given parliamentary time to your issue, what more do you want? This is a representative democracy you know!"

I think you're spreading FUD really. Have a look at current UK petitions which have passed the 100k votes:

fuel prices - http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/347 (small decrease implemented, plans for the future shared)

immigration - http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/19658 (basic plans shared, recently implemented changes listed, already heard some people having visa issues, so something is happening)

summer riots - http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/7337 (no direct actions, but response means pretty much "this is happening anyways", there's some more information about what the local authorities can do)

Hillsborough 1989 - http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/2199 (accepted, disclosure will happen)

financial education - http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/8903 (this one does look like a non-answer, but maybe they're really doing the reviews now)

private pensions - http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/1535 (no response yet, only crossed the line recently)

While I'm not crazy about all the answers, there was some effect (or at least an explanation or a commitment to the original plan). They're quite far from "a more efficient way of shutting people up" the way it's presented in the comments here.

All that stuff is relatively non-controversial though, I don't consider the system to have been really tested until the people demand something the government really doesn't want to do.

When we get a million signatures against war in iran, or to unilaterally leave the EU or something, then we'll see what happens.

Uncontroversial to remove all Government benefits from those convicted of involvement in the Summer Riots?

I think that makes it a bit worse. Those debates are more than good enough for a lot of people who don't care much. "Oh look they debated things! Welp, back to the grind!"

Even worse, if enough petitions get that many votes, it could be spun as a problem for politicians who want to get things done, "The public keeps wanting us to debate these stupid issues! We can't get to the more important things!" Yes it sounds far-fetched, but some newspapers will sink that low...

It's a data point on public opinion. Remember that all the lobbying money spent in the US is there only to swing public opinion ~10% on an election.

In the truth-vacuum of DC, it's pretty relevant.

Remember that all the lobbying money spent in the US is there only to swing public opinion ~10% on an election.

OT, but is it then reasonable to infer that the increasing closeness of Presidential elections over the past couple of decades may have simply been a cost-cutting operation by the lobbying industry?

What is SOPA and why should you care about it?

Short serious video: http://youtu.be/1ngRPuXpCIw

Long sarcastic video with a British accent: http://youtu.be/JhwuXNv8fJM

Everyone is mentioning how petitions don't work, which I agree with.

(Sidenote: I think it is an extra step worse that the government put up a website for petitions, and still ignores their own system. Random petitions (e.g. "\signed" forum posts) are one thing, but this is more like toying with people.)

That said, I think this petition has something important that other whitehouse.gov petitions don't: in that, under SOPA, there is actually technically a possibility that the government would censor itself (via whitehouse.gov), which is pretty funny if you think about it.

Edit: I suppose I mean "funny" in a darker sense.

I created an account in order to sign this, but when I try to sign in I get a 404 -- using Chrome. Anyone else get that?

In Safari every time I try to sign in, it just redirects me to the page I was already on without signing me in.

This happens to me in every browser I've tried (Opera, Chrome, FF, and ELinks). Maybe we can start a petition to... oh wait...

Didn't work for me in Chrome, but it worked in IE. Figures eh?

I got it as well, in FF. Most of the time, these things get a one-strike-and-adios policy for me, but on this it seems important enough to try again later...

If you are using Firefox, then install the "User Agent Switcher" add-on and switch to "Internet Explorer 8". Ta-da! You will now be able to see the site.

F^(#!~& server-side browser filtering... >:-(

I just tried in Chrome and Firefox. Finally tried IE. Guess what? It worked. Sigh.

I saw the 404 the second time I tried to sign in. The first time worked -- seemingly -- but returning to the petition page gave me this riddle:


Notice the bar on the bottom showing I'm signed in. And the prompt to sign in before I can vote.

Can't seem to get past that no matter what I try. I'll try IE, I guess.

It'll let you in as soon as it's done downloading your email.

The WH petition system is to political activism what Twitter is to people's social commentary... effectively redirect everything to /dev/null and make them think they've made their voices heard (although I think that this particular one is quite clever).

For all the discussion about worthless Internet petitions, it should be noted that the White House form is specifically set up to at least elicit a response if a certain threshold is reached. The threshold was originally 5,000 signatures but was raised to 25,000 after the White House responded to pleas for information about extraterrestrials. If they gave a response to that arguably silly request, it is reasonable to think they will at least respond to this one.

See http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45176460/ns/technology_and_scien...

I'm in Canada, and I've realized that SOPA would damage me too, since the domain would be removed from the DNS. People here are suggesting calling their representatives, but which one should I call? Would they even bother listening to someone, who ate the end of the day, is not going affect their chance of reelection? I'd still like to be able to do something since SOPA and Protect IP are quite horrible laws.

FWIW, when you call a Senator or Congressperson, they ask for your name and zip. Nothing else. You can theoretically grab any zipcode in their district off of Google and use it. Just saying.

I disagree, although I'll sign it. A petition should be created to not only stop SOPA but demand INTERNET FREEDOM laws. This will make it impossible to present any SOPA without repealing the law as there's a direct conflict.

Otherwise there'll be another attempt at SOPA after outrage fatigue. And there had been many before.

Petitions don't work. The Founding Fathers knew that...

Not a chance. Election is coming up and we're talking about 100s of millions of dollars of contributions from the entertainment industry. He'll sign it.

On the other hand, if he veto's maybe we can make up the difference. I'd be happy to contribute to a president who is a proven proponent of internet liberty. I just don't have the bankroll of the hollywood execs. Maybe some of the recent internet billionaires can fill in the gaps.

I like the tactic the petition used by even if they took the time to treat it seriously this is the only 2 outcomes...

1) The petition gets removed for containing infringing content

or worse...

2) The government moves towards removing imgur.com because it is doing the hosting of the infringing content

I know, I know its absurd, but who really believes that that link can bring down whitehouse.gov?

I received another letter from the white house. I am going to say it now. whitehouse.gov is BS. It is complete and utter bs. You are lucky if an intern looks at it, probably just a pre-canned response to any media whatever. All these petitions say is "bla bla bla write me some bs"

We need a better methodology.

Can't sign in or register in Chrome 15 ?

Oddly enough, I browsed around to another page and was able to create an account from there.

You apparently just cannot create an account from that particular page.

For whatever reason account creation doesn't work from the 'Stop SOPA' petition page.

I can't sign in either using FF7. Something must be up with the website.

Every time I've tried logging in with an existing account to sign anything I've always gotten a 404 after.

Guys, the link doesn't load properly if you have Ghostery enabled. I'm not sure what WH.gov is doing to load that petition from another domain via JS, but disabling Ghostery makes things work OK.

Something shady going on with this petition? I logged in - first time every looking at it - and it says "You've already signed this petition."


I didn't realize that anyone could create petitions on WhiteHouse.gov. Were it not for the casual writing style, I might have thought this was an official petition from the White House.

Neat. https://wwws.whitehouse.gov/petitions

That's by design.

8k votes... that is just sad...

In a couple hours. On a Sunday.

on a law that is one step shy of banning the whole internet world-wide. since pretty much every site allows some user content and a single accusation will down that entire site, i'd hope for a better response than that.

edit: banning is too harsh. censored to the agreement of all corporate interests, all potential corporate interests and the interests of those rich and American enough to have influence

Well quit griping about the lack of involvement and go tell some people about it to help increase the number.

And now 2 hours later it's at 11,794.

Our government showed us many times that they don't give a shit about these petitions.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact