Darrell Issa’s Reddit Smackdown
When Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA), took to Reddit earlier this week to gauge support for his proposed bill, the Internet American Moratorium Act, (IAMA) which would impose a two-year moratorium on Internet legislation, he opened up a hornets’ nest of yays, nays and WTF’s he may not have expected.
Issa’s approach seemed commonsense enough: a cyber version of the old tried-and-true town hall meeting. The congressman created an Ask Me Anything session in the Reddit forum to share what he had introduced and why, and then fielded comments.
His opening post encouraged support for the legislation, and his enthusiasm came through loud and clear when he wrote, in part, ”Together, we can make Washington take a break from messing w/ the Internet.”
The problem with enthusiasm is that it can be infectious in ways good and not so good. In Issa’s case, many Redditors enthusiastically dumped on the Californian’s proposal vigorously and, often, vituperatively. Memory is not short on the Internet, and when it comes to legislation to reduce, impede, or otherwise restrain user access to the Net, there is a rabidly reactive population that retains every trace of such attempts.
Last April, the House passed CISPA–Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act—an amendment to the National Security Act of 1947. Viewed by its detractors as a major step toward government oversight of the Internet, and alleged to give the Feds access to social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, CISPA nonetheless garnered the requisite number of House signatures, including Darrell Issa’s.
That moment of sponsorship, no matter how well-intentioned it might have seemed at the time, came back on Tuesday to bite Mr. Issa in his virtual backside. Post upon post flayed the congressman for what appeared to be a two-faced position on Internet openness:
“He’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He doesn’t support SOPA (the defeated Stop Online Piracy Act), but was a co-sponsor of CISPA because it wasn’t as widely publicized. He’s been constantly lying to everybody regarding his stance on net neutrality for the past two years;” and
“His legislation’s name is as Orwellian as the PATRIOT Act, come to think of it. Issa’s shown himself to be a sleaze time and again…I’m certain he has an ulterior motive.”
It must be said that the congressman took all the hazing in stride, never wavering from his position, and maintaining an air of comity (vs. comedy), throughout the session. As reported in Venturebeat, Issa responded to one Reddit inquisitor, “The intent of this law is clear – it is to stop both formal regulations and administrative actions” that warp and change to fit a particular circumstance…Often, government can exercise power without rule-making.”
Caution is usually the best byword when inviting the Internet community to a town hall meeting; Issa took a chance, and suffered a few blows from the crowd, but nonetheless managed to stay on point. Like the Timex watch, he took a licking, but kept on ticking. Only time will tell if we can say the same about his legislation.
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