Some modest remarks on the role of citizen lobbying in defeating #SOPA

So apparently SOPA is dead, for now. If you’ve been following the recent events surrounding this infamous anti-piracy (and anti-free speech) law, you know that’s good news for a lot of people – me included. The way this thing will go down in history is pretty much that “an iniquitous piece of legislation was to be voted, but a 7 million-strong Google petition, a rally in San Francisco and a massive online campaign (including a spectacular 24-hour blackout) defeated it”. Unfortunately, this means downplaying the role of another important element of this story: lobbying.

If you are not aware of how US lobbying works (or, worse, if you are European), let me break it down for you. Lobbying basically means talking to the right persons and influence them in following a certain political line. Sometimes this line is instantiated by a clear gain in terms of funding for politicians – to be used to be re-elected, to promote new policies, public works programmes, or political activity in general. Government resources are scarse, so this keeps the machine running, although in some cases it borders on buying votes. Telecommunication and electronics companies are among the biggest “buyers”.

Communication and electronics sector displays one of the highest and fastest increasing lobbying spending. Source: Sunlight Foundation