Newsflash:
Tuesday, 17 January 2012 00:00

John Nichols: How Rob Zerban forced Paul Ryan to defend Internet freedom

Written by  John Nichols | Cap City News

The American Civil Liberties Union, Free Press and the Save the Internet campaign have made it clear that the Stop Online Piracy Act poses a genuine threat to human rights advocacy and whistleblowing on the Web.

Yet the measure continues to advance in the U.S. House, even as a Senate variation on it, the Protect IP Act, has been put on hold by Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden.

That's why Internet sites went dark Wednesday in protest.

If the bill is stopped, it will be by political action. But that won't be easy. Powerful lobbies, including Rupert Murdoch's still considerable and influential D.C. operations, are backing it.

The only way that members of Congress, especially top Republicans in the U.S. House who tend to defer to Murdoch and Fox News, will oppose SOPA is if they recognize that they could be threatened politically if they take the wrong position on the future of the Internet.

Is that possible? Yes, indeed, in one remarkable case, the message has already been sent — and received.

Congressman Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who chairs the House Budget Committee, has broken with House Republican leaders to express explicit opposition to the legislation.

Why? Is Ryan a champion of Internet freedom and civil liberties? Not hardly.

He was a big backer of the Patriot Act and has never distinguished himself as anything other than a rubber-stamp for the demands of corporate interests that would love to colonize the Internet.

So what happened?

Ryan's Democratic challenger in the 2012 election, an energetic local official named Rob Zerban, made the issue unavoidable for Ryan.

Zerban came out strong against the issue, launched an online petition urging Ryan to join him in opposing it and began working with the powerful online community reddit — where the registered users submit content — to highlight his fight on the issue.

Zerban kept talking about SOPA when most other pols were avoiding the issue — or simply were unaware of it.

"SOPA is a complex issue but here is how I approach it: The first thing to remember is that our free speech is our most fundamental right as Americans and this is critical to our society and economy. It is also critical to innovation and this process of free speech, which we are doing right now on reddit, is what enables us to share and develop the ideas that impact the world," said Zerban, a successful businessman, who bluntly declared: "We need to preserve the free nature of the Internet."

Zerban's campaign took off as he focused on the SOPA fight. "Since I came out against the overreach of SOPA, we have had an incredible outpouring of support across the Internet," he explained in an email to the Betabeat website, which has done a terrific job of covering these issues. "Donations are spiking and people are going to www.robzerban.com in much greater numbers. To me, it reflects the power of the Internet as a tool for democracy and that is what I love so much about it and what to make sure we protect."

Ryan got the message. He issued a terse statement in late December that announced: "The Internet is one of the most magnificent expressions of freedom and free enterprise in history. It should stay that way. While H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act, attempts to address a legitimate problem, I believe it creates the precedent and possibility for undue regulation, censorship and legal abuse. I do not support H.R. 3261 in its current form and will oppose the legislation should it come before the full House."

That made Ryan — along with Texas Congressman Ron Paul — one of the most prominent Republicans to oppose SOPA.

"This is an extraordinary victory," declared Zerban. "Reddit was able to force the House Budget chair to reverse course — shock waves will be felt throughout the establishment in Washington today — other lawmakers will take notice."

At the least, Democratic challengers should take notice. Zerban has created a model for raising issues and forcing powerful members of the Republican establishment in Congress to take notice.

And Zerban is not backing down.

While Ryan's official and campaign websites were "up" Wednesday, Zerban's features this "site off-line" announcement:

"My campaign website is down today in support of the online community and those in my district who value the future of the free Internet and who oppose SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) as well as PIPA (the Protect-IP Act). SOPA and PIPA are dangerous pieces of legislation that undermine our fundamental right of free speech. The free nature of the Internet makes it the collaborative and inventive tool that has become a critical engine of social and economic innovation. Allowing private censorship of the Internet is misguided. There are better ways to achieve the goals of this legislation that do not threaten the essence of the Internet. To learn more, please visit AmericanCensorship.org. I encourage you to take action on this issue: Contact your representative and senators to urge them to vote against SOPA and PIPA, find their information at http://www.govtrack.us/congress/findyourreps.xpd. Or you can sign a petition by copying this URL into your browser, http://act.boldprogressives.org/survey/survey_sopa_reddit/".

To learn more about efforts to get Congress to block SOPA, visit the site of the Save the Internet coalition (a group with which I have long been associated and am proud to support) at www.savetheinternet.com.

Link to article from Cap City Times

John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Follow him on Twitter at @NicholsUprising.

Read 3714 times Last modified on Sunday, 15 April 2012 18:35

PDA In Your State

Progressive Round Table

Please make plans to join us for the July Progressive Round Table. We will focus on Declaring our Independence from Wall Street and Corporate Control. Please join Progressive Democrats of America and many others Wednesday, July 16 from 1 to 3pm in Rayburn 2103. Livestreamed anywhere you are by We Act Radio. Featuring: Andrea Miller - Detroit Water Shutoff Update Rep. Keith Ellison (HR 1579 - Inclusive Prosperity Act) Rep. Jim McGovern (HJ Res20 & 21 - Corporations are NOT People and Money is NOT Speech) Rep. Jim McDermott - HR 4754 - Managed Carbon Price Act of 2014 Rep. Mark Pocan - Trans Pacific Partnership Emily Wurth - Food and Water Watch Public Banking - BankAct - Marc Armstrong Robin Hood Tax Campaign - Kenn Zinn,National Nurses United Jacqui Nantier - We Are Woman - ERA and Voting Rights DC Rally American Sustainable Business Council - Stephen Shaff Labor Campaign for Single Payer - Mark Dudzic Trey Hawkins - Credit Union National Association Witold Skwierczynski - AFGE - Stop the closing of Social Security Offices Please contact Andrea Miller andrea@pdamerica.org for more information about how to get involved with PDA, and / or with PDA's July Round Table meeting. Hope you can join us!

PDA's July Congressional Roundtable


PDA’s July Congressional Roundtable
PDA June Roundtable
PDA June Roundtable
7007 sec.
Views: 158
PDA’s Progressive Roundtable
PDA's Progressive Roundtable
4978 sec.
Views: 194
PDA April Roundtable
PDA April Roundtable
6526 sec.
Views: 140

Sign the Petition - Sen. Sanders Run as a Democrat in 2016

Button-SandersPetition

PDA in the Media