You are here

Internet Astroturf 3.0 -- Internet as Oz Series Part 3

Pro-piracy interests have been organizing globally to head off and defeat future anti-piracy legislation (like SOPA/PIPA), IP treaties (ACTA) and property rights enforcement, all while claiming to represent "the Internet" and all its users, when they do not. They collectively represent pro-piracy special interests.

They hijack popular political buzz-words like "Internet Freedom" and "innovation," to distract people from their fringe anti-property views and to simulate broad mainstream political support.

("Astroturf" in a public policy context connotes artificial grassroots, simply proclaiming to be something one is not in order to gain broader political support.)

This analysis spotlights the political interests and strategy of global pro-piracy interests. It also answers several key questions:

  • What unites pro-piracy special interests?
  • Who are the top ten Internet astroturf 3.0 players?
  • If this is Internet astroturf 3.0, what was 1.0 and 2.0?
  • What's the main difference with Internet astroturf 3.0?
  • What are the main political techniques of Internet astroturf 3.0?
  • What are Internet astroturf 3.0's three grand deceptions?

What unites pro-piracy special interests?

Pro-piracy special interests are united in the common belief that users and groups of any kind should not have to pay, or ask for permission, to use others' intellectual property online, because permission and payment to use intellectual property limits the sharing, creativity and innovation of others.

Who are the top ten Internet astroturf 3.0 players?

  1. The just-formed Internet Association is the self-proclaimed "unified voice of the Internet economy" which ironically does not include the vast majority of the Internet economic "voices" by audience.
  2. Google Ideas, Google's "Think/Do Tank," notably claims to oppose illicit networks of most all kinds, except piracy networks. Its other astroturf arm, Google Take Action, celebrates "Internet freedom," and its main "action" was mobilizing to kill SOPA/PIPA. Google documents how starting with one Googler voice of opposition, Google's efforts helped to lead seven million Internet voices to oppose U.S. anti-piracy legislation as censorship and breaking the Internet.
  3. Reddit is an online community that was very active in opposing SOPA/PIPA. Reddit's CEO recently launched an election bus tour in coordination with the Internet Association to get out the Open Internet message politically and to register voters.
  4. The Internet Defense League proclaims it "takes the tactic that killed SOPA and PIPA and turns it into a permanent force for defending the Internet" and says it follows the lead of Public Knowledge, a leading opponent of robust property rights online.
  5. FreePress -- whose name deceptively suggests it strongly supports a free press, when in actuality, it fervently promotes a more government-controlled press -- runs, which defines Internet freedom as "net neutrality" and proselytizes that private ownership of networks encourages discrimination and censorship of free speech. FreePress' latest Internet astroturf 3.0 effort is promoting its "Declaration of Internet Freedom," where the "freedom to innovate" is somehow not having to ask for permission to use others' property.
  6. Public Knowledge promotes Internet openness, which means an Internet commons where internet content should be public knowledge accessible for free by all and not private knowledge owned and controlled by the content's creators. Simply, Public Knowledge views online property as limiting the creativity of non-property-owners. Public Knowledge often plays the "good cop" to FreePress' "bad cop" in Washington.
  7. The Open Internet Coalition defines Internet openness as net neutrality regulation or preemptively banning broadband network property owners from enjoying the normal business freedom of: offering differentiated services via their property; and determining the price others must pay for using one's property.
  8. The Free Culture student movement is based on Professor Larry Lessig's book Free Culture, which opposes proprietary software and content on the Internet. Professor Lessig and his work are often credited as the common source, thread, and strategy behind most Internet astroturf efforts over the last decade.
  9. CCIA -- a long-time opponent of strong property rights online and an activist proponent of net neutrality -- recently has added two new astroturf vehicles: the new Foundation for Innovation and Internet Freedom and the Disruptive Competition Project. CCIA uses the word "open" four times in its ten-word tagline.
  10. The just-formed Internet Infrastructure Coalition (i2Coalition) is the self-proclaimed "singular collective voice on public policy for the Internet," which ironically does not include wire line or wireless network "voices" that comprise what the law, Congress and the FCC consider to be the actual infrastructure of the Internet.

If this is Internet astroturf 3.0, what was 1.0 and 2.0?

Internet astroturf 1.0 (~2000-2006):

It originated with Richard Stallman's Free Software movement which asserts users should not have to pay or ask permission to use software. Professor Larry Lessig's books (2000-2006) filled out and popularized this "free" thinking and the student free culture movement helped build academic support and spawned authorship of many books. Professor Lessig founded Creative Commons, and originated the concept of net neutrality (which Tim Wu later named). In 2001, Public Knowledge was founded to bring Internet commons thinking to Washington advocacy. And In 2002, FreePress was founded by Robert McChesney to bring political activism to these issues. (For more background see this link.)

Internet astroturf 2.0 (2006-2012):

It originated with the establishment of FreePress' organization of the coalition in 2006. It pushed aggressively for net neutrality legislation and regulation of broadband networks. The effort was turbo-charged with Google's strong public lobbying, funding, and in-kind support for net neutrality regulation and open spectrum rules. The effort leveraged Web 2.0 social media technology to magnify and amplify the anti-property online message. "Net neutrality" and a "free and open Internet" were the chosen political buzzwords of 2.0.

Internet astroturf 3.0 (2012-)

The September 18th 2012 Internet Blackout protest that doomed SOPA and PIPA birthed 3.0. Professor Lessig's Creative Commons promoted an online petition: "Don't Censor the Net." Google blogged: "Don't Censor the Web." and in opposing the EU's new privacy plan Google charged it would "break the Internet." Since the Internet blackout, pro-piracy interests have vastly expanded their Astroturf operation globally with the addition of the Internet Defense League, Google Take Action, the Internet Association, the i2Coalition, the Declaration of Internet Freedom, and CCIA's Foundation for Innovation and Internet Freedom and Disruptive Competition Project. "Internet freedom" and "innovation" appear to be the new chosen political buzzwords for 3.0.

What's the main difference with Internet Astroturf 3.0?

The main change besides the additional organizations catalogued above, is the new astroturf strategy of maximally leveraging global organization and scale.

Since the Internet, social media, and Google Translate all scale globally like nothing before, the Internet astroturf 3.0 effort is cleverly leveraging this powerful natural technological advantage to advance their pro-piracy interests globally.

Moreover, since the Internet has minimal boundaries, organizing globally enables the aggregation of fringe or special interests dispersed around the world and the focusing of them at the appropriate time to appear much larger and more broad-based politically online than they really are. A global focus also provides more opportunities, and a more consistent activist calendar, to maintain organizing momentum.

Google Ideas, Google's Think/Do Tank, led by former State Department political appointees with recent experience in pioneering digital diplomacy, can be expected to be the brainchild and a lead orchestrator of this new global Internet astroturf 3.0 strategy.

Lastly, the global strategy dovetails with the unifying techtopian goal to use technology to "change the world."

What are the main political techniques of Internet Astroturf 3.0?

The main political technique is to polarize the debate to frame their side as wonderfully for saving the Internet and the other side as despicably for breaking the Internet. They are valiantly standing up for freedom of speech, whereas property interests are selfishly for government and corporate censorship.

Google is the master of political polarization. Just last week Google Chairman Schmidt said "Google stands for innovation as opposed to patent wars." Previously he polarized that Google was for openness and Apple closedness.

The second political technique is buzzword blackmail. Internet astroturf 3.0 is for "Mom and apple pie" terms that everyone is for like: freedom, openness, innovation, sharing, free speech, and democracy. Their opponents are for horrible things: censorship of free speech, breaking the Internet, discrimination, blocking, impairing, denying etc.

The third political technique is to deceive by politically redefining commonly-understood terms to in practice mean the exact opposite.

  • "Freedom" has been redefined to mean no responsibility or obligation to pay, or ask for permission to use what belongs to others. They have perversely redefined freedom from meaning protection from government harms to now mean that people should have the "freedom" to do harm to others.
  • "Open" has been redefined to mean government regulation of markets not no regulation. They have perversely redefined "open markets" or "open competition" from meaning free of government control to mean government controlled.
  • "Democracy" has been redefined to mean "rule of code" rather than rule of law.
  • "Infringement/theft" has been redefined as "sharing" and "remixing."

What are Internet astroturf 3.0's three grand deceptions?

Pro-piracy political interests are perpetrating three grand deceptions of the public via Internet astroturf 3.0 to advance their political agenda.

  • The first political deception is that the Internet is a political monolith where all its users have the same political beliefs towards Internet behavior and property.
  • The second is that all of their political support is "organic" and spontaneous and not the result of a well-orchestrated artificial astroturf effort.
  • The third is that pro-piracy political interests are "post-partisan," not political, when they are overwhelmingly comprised of left-wing highly-partisan supporters.

All of these deceptions are necessary to make pro-piracy interests' political agenda more palatable to the political mainstream.


Internet as Oz Series

Part 1: "The New Internet Association's Back Story"

Part 2: "Top False Claims of the New Internet Association"