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Summary:

Many of y’all are against the Stop Online Piracy Act, but it’s time for a bit of a reality check on working with Washington. While boycotting GoDaddy might feel good, here are six actions that will be more effective at changing politicians’ minds.

Put down those torches and pick up the phone.

Put down those torches and pick up the phone.

Updated: Okay, so the Internet won, and Go Daddy has decided to stop supporting SOPA, but that doesn’t mean you should stop yourself from actually taking any one of these steps to speak directly to Congress.

Many in the tech community are against the Stop Online Piracy Act, but it’s time for a bit of a reality check on working with Washington D.C. As Clay Johnson put it pretty bluntly in his post on why Internet companies need to stop bitching about the system and learn how it works, y’all need to stop freaking out about GoDaddy supporting the effort and start doing something that could directly kill it. This whole Go Daddy boycott can be a side project, but if you really want to kill SOPA here’s what you need to do:

  1. Call your Congressperson. Engine Advocacy makes it easy, so just take all of five minutes today and do it. And when you call, don’t just say, “I am against SOPA.” Start by stating your name and town, so the staffer who takes the call knows you’re a constituent. Check here first and see where your representative stands (need to find your representative? check here). Then craft a message just for him or her. Make it polite; make it coherent; and if you actually vote, say that. If you don’t vote, say this is an issue that will drive you to the polls during their re-election campaigns.

     
    For example, when I called my representative, the Big Bad Wolf in all of this, bill sponsor Rep. Lamar Smith, I said: “My name is Stacey Higginbotham, and I am a constituent of Mr. Smith’s in Austin, Texas. I am also a technology journalist who believes that my livelihood and the future of U.S. competitiveness is hurt by his stance on the Stop Online Piracy Act. I have voted since I was 18, and my husband is a registered Republican. However, we both feel that this is an issue that will determine our vote in the next election.”

     
    Keep it short, polite and personal if you can articulate why this affects you. To cap it off, say you would like a response for your Congressperson and be prepared to leave your address. A former staffer says this is a good way to get your call more attention. That same staffer underscores the need to be polite, so check your anger at the door.

  2. Write your Congressperson. I know it sounds nutty, but Congress loves those personalized messages that also help support the U.S. Postal System. So find your representative here, and then type or hand write a short letter that should follow along with the guidelines from above (you can go longer in this format though). You can also submit a form letter or online petition, but nothing says, “I care” like an original written communique.
  3. Visit your Congressperson. I bet you guys see a theme developing here, right? But if you can present yourself calmly and coherently, then find out if your Representative is speaking at any point in time over the holidays. If they are, go to the event and ask a question or try to shake your Representative’s hand and give him or her your feelings. Go here for a link to Congressional Websites and click through to yours to find out if yours is doing any local events. You may have to call the local district office and ask.
  4. Talk to your friends. It’s pretty clear that Silicon Valley and certain other tech populations are against this legislation, but what about your Facebook friends and such in the heartlands? Find your family, your friends and acquaintances and educate them about SOPA. Tell them a personal story. Don’t just say it breaks the Internet; say you are worried because it makes your job harder, or because it means their home videos might get taken offline without them having a say. Then tell them how to get in touch with their representatives.
  5. Talk to your employer. At the individual level, it’s frustratingly difficult to make headway in Washington, although, if you care about SOPA today, then you should also remember how your representative voted and make sure you carry that with you as you decide (and vote) when the times comes for his or her re-election. But you can also present information to your employer and see if you can convince your company to take a stand.

     
    Already 40 Internet companies have come out against SOPA. Another thought is that technology firms probably could take a page from the successful voting guides put forth by the big telecommunications and old-line companies. Many old-school companies whose livelihoods depend on the government viewing them in a certain light, issue voting guides for their employees telling them how to vote. Clearly employees can do what they want, but for some, the pamphlets or emails can be very influential.

     
    The final thing is to get your employer to understand the importance of lobbying. It’s a dirty practice, but it’s how influence is peddled in Washington. The tech world has been pretty above the political world, but now that everyone is consuming technology, the industry can’t afford to be holier than K Street.
  6. Support the Electronic Frontier Foundation. As you probably have gleaned, there’s only so much a single individual can do to sway Washington, so if you don’t want to talk to your friends or employer, but would still like to amplify your voice, then EFF has been working hard to stop SOPA. It has an established DC voice and education effort, so its lobbyists are already familiar in Washington. Plus, if the law does pass, then EFF is likely the organization that will sue to challenge the law.

So go on, boycott any one of the 120 companies supporting SOPA, but make sure you pick one or two of these things to do too, if you’re serious about stopping the law.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Kevin Dooley.

  1. Don’t dismiss the GoDaddy boycott so easily. We are constantly told we don’t need regulations (often by the people who are pushing for regulations like SOPA), because the “free market” will stop bad behavior by big companies. You know, like how people will not buy products from companies that pollute their air and water, although often there is no available feedback path for people to exercise.

    However, in this case, the link is very clear: GoDaddy makes money from the internet, registering domains and hosting them, in fact, the very businesses that will be impacted by SOPA. They are even signaling their intent to comply with unconstitutional laws with their support of this proposed bill. It is most appropriate that GoDaddy gets the message that their customer base finds their position on this bill completely unacceptable.

    I actually think the damage they have caused their business is irreversible. I don’t think this will cause them to go out of business, but they have lost the trust of many people, who will not only transfer their registrations, but also will not use them in the future because who knows where they stand on constitutional rights and the independence of the internet.

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    1. I wasn’t trying to be dismissive, I just want people to take action with Congress as well. But, GoDaddy has reversed its position which is awesome. Hopefully Congress takes notice.

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      1. Go Daddy has not reversed there position. They have backed down from supporting it. They are not speaking out against it at this point

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  2. GoDaddy’s entire history has always been based on blatant opportunism. Locking customers into convoluted cancelling policies, ad campaigns that feature celebrity cheesecake, etc. is all typical GoDaddy. This abrupt reversal brought on by bad PR outing GoDaddy’s involvement in SOPA is itself just PR. The fact that GoDaddy management has made a public statement they no longer support SOPA is significant but also beyond meaningless. Its entire history has been patterned by any typical American corporation, which puts public service waaaayyyy down on the list of priorities. GoDaddy is betting on SOPA getting shoved through the House because the Democrats have become ineffective and Pres. Obama has made only mild token statements against SOPA or the equally anal Protect IP Act in the Senate. If Lamar Alexander does succeed in ramming SOPA through the House of Representatives, nobody should be surprised if GoDaddy makes another press release glorifying its participation in SOPA.

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    1. GoDaddy’s behavior is symptomatic of the system we’ve allowed to grow, like cancer, on our politics. Whenever government is used to provide benefits of any kind for one group at the expense of another group, you will find those ready to exploit government’s largess to their benefit.

      This is why the federal constitution was designed to protect individual liberty, not provide “benefits”.

      To a great extent, GoDaddy, like every other business, is behaving rationally given the rules of the game. It’s just that the rules of the game have been stacked against the individual in favor of those with access to the government’s purse. This is true of the Cadillac driving welfare queen just as much as it is of the “greedy” corporation that supports legislation that increases it’s bottom line.

      What’s the solution? Return the federal government it’s constitutional purpose – protect individual liberty.

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  3. Really want to let the supporters of #SOPA know what you think? Robocall them here http://www.reverserobocall.com/products/sopa-hr-3261-proponents-88-offices

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  4. Concerned Reader Saturday, December 24, 2011

    All but #6 here are worthless. Our congress is bought and they do not pay any attention to who’s calling them. They hardly even read any of the bills they’re responsible to vote on. Come on, the system has failed and I’m tired of hearing people say use the system. The internet and small movements like the backlast against GoDaddy are the things that show people how we can ON THE INTERNET oppose whats going on and get the word out by doing real things to real businesses. Yeah call your senator, see what happens. “Oh thank you for your concern, we’ll make sure to put this in the circular file, thanks.”

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    1. I have to agree.

      I wonder if Stacey also tried this approach when GATT, NAFTA, Patriot Act, and NDAA were passed.

      these are public servants who are deliberately committing acts of treason to dissolve the United States and merge us into a global government. They don’t deserve ‘politeness’! Or any other form of respect.

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  5. I don’t know if you have seen this video, but when you get the chance please watch this video on youtube about evidence on cbs cnet and many others on SOPA.. it really makes you rethink about SOPA act…

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  6. I wish i could do something to stop sopa but im in canada D:

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  7. Don’t write to your congresscritter, email them. You can say the same thing and it carries the same weight. All incoming snail mail into congress is irradiated to kill any possible anthrax spores. This delays the mail sometimes over a week depending on the volume. And, from what I’ve been told by several staffers is that it makes the mail smell really bad too.

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  8. Richard Bennett Sunday, December 25, 2011

    There are two ways to turn legislators around on issues: You can scare them or you can rationally convince them. Most legislators are interested in doing the right thing most of the time, actually, so it’s always possible to persuade. More on that later.

    Now you’re not going to scare somebody like Lamar Smith into changing his position on a bill that he wrote. He performed all the necessary political calculations before introducing the bill, and he knows he’s in a secure seat (won 70% in the last election, and 80% in the one before that when he didn’t even have a Democratic opponent.) So the letter that Stacey sent isn’t going to make a difference because it’s a “fear your seat” letter.

    Convincing him he’s wrong and showing him a better way would be the better approach, but this is where the SOPA opponents come up empty. The vast bulk – like 99.999% – of the SOPA criticism on the web shows ignorance of what the bill actually does and/or ignorance of how it interacts with things like the DNS in general or DNSSEC in particular. And the SOPA opponents don’t have anything to offer as an alternative other than OPEN, which is just a subset of SOPA under a different agency.

    In general, if you want to make a dent on Congress you have to be clear on your own position, you have to have the facts straight, and you have to be right.

    SOPA’s enemies come up short on all these counts, so they deserve to fail.

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  9. William Hadley Sunday, January 8, 2012

    The link in #6 for the PDF file of the supporters is dead.

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  10. I’m not American, don’t live in America. Why do I care? A lot if servers, like YouTube are in the USA, if this passes I’ll suffer from the censorship too.

    My solution is companies like YouTube threat to leave the USA if this goes ahead, Americans will still suffer but at least the rest of the world won’t have too.

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