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Canadian Internet Users Need Direct Line to Government

I’ve been witness to and participated in the digital social revolution.  A revolution that is changing the shape of public policy and politics.  Whenever I think of the social revolution we are a part of, it reminds me of the below BBC promo video for a show that ran a year ago called Superpower.

Those that are avid users of digital technology often take part in voicing their concerns with respect to our digital future.  Whether that be the Canadian copyright consultations, ACTA, SOPA, Usage Based Billing, Canadian users  seem to have a need to better communicate their wishes to government.  In Canada we have a strong pro-internet ally Openmedia.ca that is providing that conduit right now between users and government.  In the US, the Whitehouse actively promotes user created petitions, and if a petition reaches 25,000 signatures over a period of time, the Whitehouse is required to respond to that petition.  We desperately need something like that in Canada.

I ran across a recent article on Michael Geist the other day. The article promoted him as sort of a super hero in the pro-internet community that has tremendous influence over public opinion.  Geist does play an important role with respect to providing Canadians with information, however he is only one source for that information, and from what I’ve witnessed in the past when battling copyright, ACTA, SOPA, and UBB the real public influence over public opinion comes from public discussion on social media and several independent technology blogs.

Consensus especially around the SOPA/PIPA issues were formed first through sites like Reddit, Twitter, Wired, Boing Boing etc.   The majority of us do not get our news on copyright related issues from major media outlets.  Their coverage has been often deemed bias.  During the 2011 Christmas break when these issues were on fire online, there was not one word covering this social reaction on Geist’s blog which has been dedicated to copyright related issues.  In fact the social media discussions on SOPA and PIPA were not even acknowledged on Geist’s blog until weeks after the issue ignited and was already well reported and discussed online.

I also hate to disagree with my friends from Openmedia on Geist’s role in the SOPA/PIPA Canadian reaction.  Many Canadians I think following the conversation prior to Geist’s post around the social media reaction the day before the protests, had already made plans to engage in it.  I do need to remind Openmedia, that if it wasn’t for me personally bringing the protests up to Steve Anderson the day before they took place, Openmedia would have been scrambling the day of the protests to figure out what was going on.  They were not actively following the online discussion on SOPA/PIPA,  nor the consensus around the protest, and were questioning why I wanted to “black out” CGO’s page the next day.

The social revolution that we are all apart of online is a collective voice that comes from multiple discussions from multiple sources. Geist is an important source, but not the only one.  The power of that collective voice when consensus is reached as we’ve seen globally can topple oppressive regimes, and change the course of public policy.  It’s important for law makers and government to be on top of that conversation and collective voice.  No one individual I think can take credit for having tremendous influence over that collective voice, nor should be given that title.  That doesn’t seem representative or right to what I’ve witnessed while tracking these discussions that have led to public policy change in Canada when that collective voice is heard.  Multiple sources and voices contribute and most of that discussion isn’t on Geist’s blog comments.

I think we need some sort of public policy as the Whitehouse has with the online petitions to allow that collective voice to better communicate to our politicians, regulators, and law makers.  I think trying to put a face to someone to represent that voice is representative of an old traditional way of politics in which social media has very much challenged. Geist isn’t a super hero, collectively we all are, and to use the BBC analogy we’re a superpower.  It’s not Geist that changes policy is our collective voice that does, and that collective voice needs a direct line to our law makers, regulators and representatives.

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