Reddit Tries Crowdsourced Legislation With “Free Internet Act”
When it came to battling SOPA and PIPA, Reddit was on the front lines. Considering Reddit was the first to announce an anti-SOPA blackout and was responsible for calling attention to anti-SOPA and anti-PIPA petitions that the White House was ultimately forced to acknowledge, it’s no surprise that Redditors are itching not only to defend the Internet, but also for a new challenge. That’s why they’re trying their hands at something really ambitious: Crowdsourced legislation.
The “Free Internet Act” is an attempt to create copyright legislation that won’t completely annihilate the Internet, and the idea is that it can be written on Reddit. When Congress finally backed down on SOPA and PIPA, there was always a caveat; every concession had a sentence something along the lines of “but we still need some kind of legislation,” and this is exactly what the Free Internet Act aims to be.
As it’s described on r/fia, the subreddit devoted to writing the thing:
The Internet Freedom Act: To promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation by preventing the restriction of liberty and preventing the means of censorship. IFA will 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 internet, governments don’t. However enforcements/laws must also be put into place to protect copyrighted content.
Isn’t that neat? Also, isn’t it 100% insane? Yes, it is, but that’s what’s interesting about it. As you can probably imagine, it’s a kind of extemporary operation. You’ll note that the subreddit title seems to refer to a Free Internet Act, while the description goes with Internet Freedom Act, and you can expect there to be many similar wrinkles to be ironed out. Granted, this kind of stuff is pretty unavoidable with crowdsourcing, but we’re talking about law here, where every little word is pregnant with meaning and ripe for misinterpretation.
And really, what do Redditors really know about crafting legislation, right? Well, about as much as legislators seem to know about the how the Internet works, so maybe Reddit isn’t so hideously under qualified after all, or at least not uniquely so. Now, this isn’t the first time anyone has tried their hand at crowdsourced legislation; the OPEN Act has been open to crowdsourced modification. This is, however, the first time the Internet has tried to work one up from scratch, at least, the first time anyone’s done it in a public enough forum that anyone notices.
Granted, the chances that Reddit can come up with an actual legal document that might actually be considered by Congress are next to none. Then again, the chance that they’ll have some kind of noteworthy effect on the copyright legislation of the future is almost certain if they maintain this kind of volume and devotion. If I had to guess, I’d say Reddit’s attempts at drafting legislation will never result in any sort of cohesive whole that can stand on its own two feet but instead, maybe come up with some language that can work its way into a more traditional bill, as a provision or something. After all, there are members of Congress who pay attention to Reddit.
All that said, the movement is young, how this all plays out is — of course — anybody’s guess. But so long as the push doesn’t fizzle out and fade away, the results are practically guaranteed to be interesting. Here’s to hoping it catches on, I like the idea of a world where crazy things like this happen.