December 22, 2011

A Guide to Slamming SOPA Supporters - Starting With "Go Daddy" Slime

Blog Update (December 23, 2011): Don't be fooled by Go Daddy's public reversal on SOPA!

Please Take the No-Go Daddy Pledge!

Unless you've been living under a massive pile of ancient floppy disks, by now you're pretty well cognizant of the immense dangers in the proposed U.S. House of Representatives SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act - H.R. 3261) and its similarly evil twin --- PIPA -- over on the Senate side of Congress (Protect IP Act - S. 968).

You're also probably at least in general terms familiar with the battle lines in this war for Internet freedom -- with the massive entertainment conglomerates leading the charge for passage, and essentially the entire free speech and Internet engineering/operations community opposed.

But you may not have seen the detailed, official list of SOPA supporters -- and it makes for very interesting and highly recommended reading.

Whenever a list like this appears, it's very tempting to rush into plans for attacks
on the various proponents, hoping to change their minds about their support of
such legislation.

Such attacks can take various forms.

Never to be countenanced are illicit maneuvers -- email floods, denial of service attacks, personal information disclosures, and the like. Not only are these usually illegal and unethical, but in the long run, serve mainly to create sympathy for the targeted organizations, and ultimately play into their dirty hands.

The existence of a SOPA supporters list also immediately suggests the use of legal boycott techniques against the listed parties, and in this respect the calculus is considerably more subtle and complex.

Generally speaking, boycotts have not proven to be a particularly effective mechanism for affecting pending legislation, and many targeted firms -- with an eye toward the perceived financial benefits of such legislation to their bottom lines -- can easily let boycotts roll off their backs. All too often these boycotts make the participants feel like they're accomplishing something useful, but the real world positive effects are minimal or nil.

The situations where consumer boycotts hold the kind of leverage necessary to really affect these firms and other organizations in an effective manner are relatively rare.

And it's also the case that there are usually more powerful ways to impact the politicians who support legislation like SOPA.

Obviously most of us cannot match the big bucks donations that drive the corruption of many politicos in these regards, but they're still always concerned about the next election.

While this may seem surprising in the Internet age, two of the most effective ways to affect lawmakers are through personal, physical letters -- and direct phone calls to their main offices. These sorts of communications, especially coming from their own constituents, are almost inevitably tabulated and closely studied, as politicians keep their fingers to the wind in hopes of predicting any coming electoral storms.

Mass petitions and form letters (whether physical or online) have much less impact, as do email communications in general. Politicians have learned how easily all of these can be faked and gamed, and generally discount or ignore them.

But personal, physical communications and phone calls still matter a great deal to Congress -- and those are areas where I feel a great deal of energy could be most usefully deployed against SOPA and PIPA.

Having said that, I still would not assert that boycotts -- in this case of SOPA supporters -- are necessarily always useless, at least when targeted at firms who might actually feel the impact in a negative way affecting their bottom lines significantly.

And in this context, it's hard to think of a more "deserving" candidate for a SOPA supporter "action" than the sleazeballs at the Go Daddy domain registry.

Go Daddy is the poster child for much that is wrong with the domain-industrial complex.

They've been in the forefront of pushing the .xxx TLD, which exists primarily to capture expensive defensive domain registrations from entities who have nothing to do with the adult entertainment industry, since by and large that industry, along with free speech advocates and anti-pornography campaigners -- all sides of the spectrum -- have condemned the .xxx concept.

Go Daddy actively supports the "gold rush" mentality of the "domainers" pushing the extortionist generic Top Level Domains (gTLD) expansion nightmare, and is explicitly trying to profit through this nightmarish protection racket -- which will only serve to suck billions of dollars out of the weak world economy, to the enrichment of a relative few who have turned the Domain Name System (DNS) into their personal piggy bank.

There are other reasons to abhor Go Daddy. Their array of seamy practices form -- to borrow from Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol -- "a ponderous chain." Go Daddy's commercials have always been disgraceful, but that's perhaps the least of concerns given that they're not alone in that dimension.

On the other hand, it's easy to despise Go Daddy's CEO, whose idea of fun is going to Africa, shooting an elephant in cold blood, then posting a bizarre and disgusting video of the results (and issuing takedown notices for any related copies that critics attempted to post).

But if all of this wasn't enough to make anyone with their domains associated with Go Daddy rethink their decision, Go Daddy's strong and enthusiastic support of SOPA should really be the last straw.

There do exist domain registrars who are ethical, oppose SOPA, and don't kill animals for fun. I won't make specific recommendations since I don't want to show favoritism toward one or another -- and I appreciate that moving domains can sometimes be a hassle.

But if you have domains with Go Daddy -- one or a thousand of them -- I strongly urge you to transfer them to a more ethical, anti-SOPA home.

If observers want to call that a boycott, so be it.

The future of SOPA and PIPA are impossible to clearly predict. There are some signs that the wise protestations of the Internet engineering community in particular have finally started to make some inroads with SOPA-supporting politicians, who largely seem not to know the difference between free speech and waterboarding, much less the technical realities of keeping the wonders of the global Internet from being diverted into a technological and political hell.

The current round of SOPA hearings in the House Judiciary Committee have now been delayed. However, the odds -- right now -- are that some sort of SOPA/PIPA legislation is still likely to be passed in both chambers of Congress, and even if somewhat watered down will still represent the censorship camel's nose under the Internet tent -- and in short order you can be sure that the entire camel will be trampling speech with abandon.

Forces allied in favor of SOPA -- as illustrated by that list of infamy -- are formidable indeed.

So those of use who wish to prevent the Internet from becoming a censorship machine rather than a beacon of free speech, must be prepared to deploy all legal means to battle SOPA. These especially include those direct communications with lawmakers as I noted above, but also can encompass carefully focused "mass consumer actions" as well, including (but not necessarily limited to) the Go Daddy case.

Most of all, we do not have the luxury of wasted efforts and squandered time.

If we blow this now, if we fail to stem the tide of what is essentially an attempt to undermine the basic principles that make the Internet great, it will likely be a long time -- if ever -- before an opportunity to undo the escalating damage will emerge.

Choose your battles carefully. Choose your battles well. But choose. And take action.



Blog Update (December 23, 2011): Don't be fooled by Go Daddy's public reversal on SOPA!

Posted by Lauren at December 22, 2011 12:41 PM | Permalink
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