UPDATED 13:27 EDT / FEBRUARY 23 2012


Reddit Looks to Democratized Lawmaking with “The Free Internet Act”

After the roaring success of reddit in helping combat the Internet-censorship bills SOPA and PROTECT-IP, the community there decided that they would try their hand at drafting legislation. As a highly collaborative forum for discussion and a democratizing technology, reddit forwards a great opportunity for an actual “We The People” style of producing legislation or addressing ideas.

The name of the subreddit generated for the purpose of housing discussion on this new attempt at drafting legislation is r/fia named “The Free Internet Act” and here’s their stated mission,

The Free Internet Act: To promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation by preventing the restriction of liberty and preventing the means of censorship.FIAwill allow internet users to browse freely without any means of censorship, users have the right to free speech and to free knowledge; we govern the content of the [I]nternet, governments don’t. However enforcements/laws must also be put into place to protect copyrighted content.

The subreddit was created by UKreddit user Downing_Street_Cat on January 29, 2012based on the nascent thoughts of reddit user RoyalWithCheese22. Royal started a thread suggesting the creation of such a community in order to combat the proliferation of legislation led by media companies over the Internet (most remarkably appraised by lawmakers without input from the Internet community) by providing real product to legislators.

“I say its time to change tactics,” Royal wrote 25 days ago, in a thread describing their intent to change the landscape of the law with reddit. “TheMPAAknows very well how to play the game when demanding legislation: Aim ridiculously high, when opposition builds up, negotiate, sacrifice some of your over the top demands. Force your opponents to sacrifice some of theirs. Voila you didn’t get exactly what you wanted but you moved in the desired direction.”

Royal prefers to remain semi-anonymous, but stays active in the r/fia subreddit as more users begin to pile on and media attention continues to mount. While Royal is sole moderator of the group, he has made it clear that he intends to use that power only to keep the discussion flowing and the document at the forefront of the conversation.

The subreddit and the community are still less than a month old and already there’s been some discussion about how difficult it might be to edit and prepare the document. “The Free Internet Act” is a work in progress and can be accessed via reddit in its own thread. The documents themselves are held as Google documents (although are inaccessible to the general public at the moment without read permission—but it seems it’s easy to get that upon request.)

This activity is reminiscent of science fiction author Dan Simmons’s Hyperion series which conjectured a government ruled by an amalgam government with legislation and policy drafted by the AllThing—otherwise known as the democratized consciousness of a multitude of the citizens of a space empire. Although reddit may only represent a tiny corner of the Internet its users come from all quadrants of the wired world.

The protests against SOPA and PROTECT-IP, and the new rising concerns about ACTA, have shown that the community forged by communication over the Internet represents a power that even copyright holders cannot combat with their vaults full of cash. Lawmakers would find themselves a ready resource if perhaps they convened investigative aids to sit with groups such as reddit and look at how they access, perceive, and use the Internet to democratize their activity and communicate.

It’s hard to tell if r/fia will retain its momentum; but it’s easy to tell that it’s only the first of its breed.

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