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Government The Internet United States

The Internet Blueprint Wants You To Crowdsource Digital Laws 114

will_edit_for_food writes "Are you fed up with anti-piracy acts that use scorched-earth tactics, like SOPA and PIPA — or secretly negotiated agreements like ACTA? Do you wonder why we the people don't propose our own laws, rather than just react whenever these bills slouch toward Congress to be born? Wouldn't you like a place where you and a few like-minded amateur lawmakers could get together and do it right? Public Knowledge has debuted the Internet Blueprint, a site for those technologically and politically inclined to gather ideas...and eventually submit them to sympathetic politicians."
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The Internet Blueprint Wants You To Crowdsource Digital Laws

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  • It sounds soo good. So... Why is this not an astroturfing project?

  • by CodeBuster ( 516420 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @03:31AM (#39194707)
    Why would the politicians bother to submit their bills without millions of dollars in donations to their re-election campaigns? I thought Washington was pay-to-play.
    • True, but the stronger the material behind claims for reform the closer we will get to that.

      Unless you have already given up and you are just waiting for the day it completely falls apart.
      • Unless you have already given up and you are just waiting for the day it completely falls apart.

        I've taken steps to prepare for that eventuality, it may still come to that sooner or later.

    • Money is used to try to convince the constituency to do something, mainly vote for the politician. But if the constituency already believes some way, then it's wise for the politician to do what they want for risk of losing office. The problems are getting a chunk of the people to believe one way, and then convincing the politician that this like-mindedness exists. And that usually takes money.

  • uhm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @03:34AM (#39194713)

    Those bills aren't slouching through Congress to be born. They're being bought by one-percenters who think buying congresscritters is cheaper, easier, and more profitable than coming up with a business model that works in the Internet Age.

    (Heh, my .sig is actually relevant to the post.)

    • Or I should have said, "congresscritters or other public officials", since AIUI ACTA is being pushed by the executive branch in the USA.

    • by artor3 ( 1344997 )

      Those bills [are] being bought by one-percenters who think buying congresscritters is cheaper, easier, and more profitable than coming up with a business model that works in the Internet Age.

      You say that like they're wrong. With voters so distracted by bigger concerns, it's definitely a buyers' market when it comes to copyright law.

    • Re:uhm... (Score:4, Informative)

      by greg1104 ( 461138 ) <gsmith@gregsmith.com> on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @05:37AM (#39195169) Homepage

      Investments in lobbyists and campaign donations have the highest return rate of anything companies can buy. Check out How Much Would It Cost To Buy Congress Back From Special Interests? [zerohedge.com] for some numbers to consider. I also like their suggestion that the required uniform for all lobbyists should be a clown suit.

      • Investments in lobbyists and campaign donations have the highest return rate of anything companies can buy. Check out How Much Would It Cost To Buy Congress Back From Special Interests? [zerohedge.com] for some numbers to consider. I also like their suggestion that the required uniform for all lobbyists should be a clown suit.

        I like the clown suit idea, but I question the cost effectiveness of lobbying. During the Jack Abramof (sp?) hearings, it was disclosed that he took millions from some Indian tribes, and they got squat. Mostly people just look at the bribery "successes", because that's what gets politicians caught. How many times does a congressperson take some money and delivery nothing of any importance, or "deliver" a vote that would have gone that way anyway?
        Can the ROI of lobbying really be measured.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Sympathetic politicians? Wake me when you find one.

  • by GoodNewsJimDotCom ( 2244874 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @03:44AM (#39194755)
    When I tried to do hyper democracy, I wanted to be like Digg/Reddit, but I wanted factional voting. Factional voting is allowing republicans to view only republican upvotes and democrats to only see democrat upvotes. We had a ton of other features too. This is why we failed. We didn't embrace KISS. By just going with facebook likes, this saves you from writing an entire voting system! This is an eloquent approach. The only problem is a lot of people don't like Facebook. I guess these are tradeoffs.

    Another challenge we faced when writing a hyper democracy website was: How do you validate they're a US voter? It could be someone from the Ukraine trying to change politics. Worse yet, it can be a million computer botnet from Nigeria trying to petition congress on something. We couldn't solve this problem in an eloquent fashion. We were going to have people physically sign up at booths across the nation to be validated, but even that doesn't solve stuff. My biggest worry is that if Facebook gets ingrained with politics and identification of people, is that Facebook will be mandatory for those getting political and that lying on Facebook about a fake ID would be a felony down the road.

    My hats off to the eloquent interface: Just use Facebook likes instead of your own database. But that can come back to bite you in the long run.
  • by sixtyeight ( 844265 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @03:46AM (#39194765)

    So the solution to political corruption is a slew of undifferentiated amateur lawmakers churning out legislation even faster than the public can keep up with?

    This smells hideously false flag.

    We had a functional system. We need to restore it by reasserting it and enforcing it, not by Monsanto-ing up more bizarre legislation faster than we can track it. One of the underlying problems has always been a decreasing public understanding of the legal models in play. Without resolving that, this approach will only exacerbate it. What publisher solicits books from writers who are illiterate?

    • by stjobe ( 78285 )

      Undoing bad moderation, disregard.

    • Exactly.

      140 million idiots can't be wrong. THAT is REAL democracy. Direct and total. Oh, and strictly transparent.

      NO system is functional until the last and least citizen is allowed to vote and edit the laws they want, and count the votes themselves, and read the source that counts the votes.

      • The Union is not a democracy. It was established as a representative republic.

        Under a republic, rights are considered given to us by our Maker and intrinsic to us. The government's role, as delegated by us, is to safeguard those rights. To the extent to which it doesn't do that, and certainly to which it violates them itself, it's no longer serving its purpose.

        Under a democracy, as you propose, the majority can and do vote themselves the rights out from under the minority. Mob rule. Moreover, there are

    • by Hatta ( 162192 )

      If we had a functioning system, explain to me the war on drug users. The only way to explain the legal situation around Cannabis is corruption, and it's the same kind of corruption that we're rife with today. Law enforcement (Anslinger) teaming up with industry and media (Hearst) to fear monger the public into supporting policies that don't benefit anyone except the powerful.

      No, if we ever had a functioning system Cannabis prohibition would have been recognized as the atrocity it is decades ago.

      • If we had a functioning system, explain to me the war on drug users.


        We had a functioning system. That system has been systematically hacked for the last 200 years. By now, citizens are trained to conflate legislation - that which comes out of a bureaucrat's pen - and law - which must have a proper derivation of authority in order to be valid. In the Union, the People delegate authorities specifically to their political representatives. What had not been delegated to them, they never had.

        Instead, we now have politicians purporting to draft any old piece of legi

    • This is just the sort of thing we have been vigorously advocating at WhyNotAskMe.org [whynotaskme.org]

      To quote from our manifesto, "Given the opportunity, people are quite capable of working things out among themselves and coming to consensus. Crowd source the question, then leverage the wisdom of the crowd. Politicians are skilled at discerning the will of the people when their attention is properly focused and they are encouraged to do so. We must give them that encouragement and focus, by whatever means we have at our di

      • I said "We must be on eternal guard for some group that would attempt to co-opt it and pre-empt it.", but I should have added for nefarious purpose. I thought my intent would be obvious at the time of writing, then later realized in horror that it could have been misconstrued.
  • by jbov ( 2202938 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @03:53AM (#39194799)
    Crowdsourcing proposed laws will not work. The laws that reach congress will not respect the rights of minorities.

    I'll provide gay marriage as a non-digital example. Majority rule would determine gay marriage to be illegal, based on the most recent surveys. That does not protect the rights of the minority of people prefer to enter into a same-sex marriage.

    Here is an easier example: Joe from Juniper bought and owns 100 acres of land. The other 9 residents of Juniper have only 1/2 acre of land each. A crowdsourced bill may be introduced requiring Joe to divide his land evenly among the other residents. It is likely everyone except Joe will vote up the up. While the bill may accurately express the desires of the majority of Juniper residents, a law requiring Joe to surrender his land would be wrong.
    • by Tastecicles ( 1153671 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @04:02AM (#39194833)

      it's a better system than one we currently have, where the vast minority rule.

    • by artor3 ( 1344997 )

      First of all, I don't think the bill to take Joe's land would actually pass. People generally aren't that greedy. Somewhat ironically, greedy 1%-ers will claim that the rest of us just want to unjustly take their money, but I doubt you'll find many non-straw-based people who actually want such a thing. A lot of people think that they should pay at least as high a percentage as a middle class person, but very few people seriously argue for a return to the 80+% top marginal tax rates of the mid-20th centur

      • by jbov ( 2202938 )

        First of all, I don't think the bill to take Joe's land would actually pass.

        That depends on how hard times got in the small farming village. Maybe it wasn't the best example, but the point was there. The same-sex marriage example requires no speculation. The majority of people polled in the USA consistently stated that same-sex marriage should be illegal. It doesn't make such a law fair.

        At any rate, crowdsourcing proposed laws doesn't mean that you don't still have a legislature.

        I realized this when I made the post. That's why I said "The laws that reach congress" in the first paragraph. So, even if the laws wouldn't pass. It would be a tremendous waste of time.

        The fact i

        • The fact is, that those possessing high intelligence, problem solving skills, and fairness are a minority. Outside of this little slashdot bubble, the majority of people are not capable of understanding problems, let alone solving them. They are incapable of making good decisions for themselves, let alone making decisions for everyone

          "And thats why you should vote ME for president"

          Ah bullocks. The 'most people are dumb besides the ones I agree with' argument is nonsense. When concerning same sex marriage, when you combine those in favor of full marriage and those in favor of civil unions, it is definately the majority. So your issue is that you want a no-compromise approach, and you're not getting the support you desire? I'm for same sex marriage, but I wouldn't want to pass it now, in a divided country where we can barely even ge

      • by Shotgun ( 30919 )

        You're joking right? Have you not listened to ANY of the speeches coming from the President of these various united states? Have you not seen the statistics where fully half of the people don't pay any income tax, or the polls that show that 2/3rds of the people think that the "rich" should be responsible for paying off our national debt? Have you ignored all the Slashdot conversations where apologists for the moochers jumps to the fore to defend them whenever an intimation that everyone should pay their

    • Would that law really be wrong though? What makes Joe so special that he should have more than everyone else? The fact that he had more money? I thought that was exactly the sort of problem we were trying to solve these days...
    • by Hentes ( 2461350 )

      This is not direct democracy but a platform where everyone can propose bills. You can't vote on the Internet as there is no way to verify identity.

    • by sohmc ( 595388 )

      I was thinking about this and I think parts of your argument are true, but some not so.

      In your example, Juniper residents had a direct democracy. This is not the case. The fault of The Internet Blueprint (and the folks that code it) is that their mechanism for churning out the bills is a "direct democracy" (quotes since it's not a form of government). Minorities still have recourse (as minimial as it may be) through their congressman and senators.

      I think the Internet Blueprint is a novel idea. But it re

    • by brit74 ( 831798 )
      I disagree with the outcomes of both of your examples.

      Regarding gay marriage: it would be legalized in some states and not legal in other states. The polls I've seen has approval of gay marriage somewhere around 50% in the US. Obviously, more liberal states would be higher than 50% and more conservative states would drop below 50%. In the longer term, more and more states would approval gay marriage because there's been a clear trend towards accepting gay marriage over time. Older Americans remain th
  • Oh fer cryin' out loud. Would someone please find a link to Tim Stryker's Superdemocracy and forward it to PK before someone tries to patent this idea? I'm too tired right now.
  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @04:13AM (#39194877) Homepage Journal
    Putting copyright back to its original length and carefully wording patent law to disallow software and business process patents or anything else that isn't an actual physical single-purpose machine. Explicitly stating that corporations are not people and may be regulated as the government sees fits. Explicitly stating that corruption and fraud are not protected free speech. Explicitly stating that corruption and subversion of our democratic process by plutocrats is not free speech and will not be tolerated. Explicitly stating that no man or entity is above the law (Looking at you, insider-trading Congressmen and Geneva-convention violating executives.)

    After that some attention would need to be turned to carefully dismantling the mechanisms the two political parties have put in place to insure that no other party rises to power, and the mechanisms the very rich have managed to get written into law to insure that they remain very rich at the expense of everyone else. If we have to go back to banking and moneylending being sinful, that's fine with me. Lets start actually creating actual things again as the main value driver of our economy.

    I don't suppose any of that would be very popular in Washington. And if I ever managed to run and get elected on such a platform I'm sure that Washington would corrupt me just like it's corrupted every other fresh-faced freshman ever to set foot in the place. Must be something in the water.

    • by Corbets ( 169101 )

      Explicitly stating that corporations are not people and may be regulated as the government sees fits.

      So you'd replace one evil with another? That sounds like a system hideously open to abuse.... you definitely need more controls on government to make that work.

    • Putting copyright back to its original length

      ie, 0. I like that!

      • by brit74 ( 831798 )
        As much as I would fear that voting would be won by short-sighted idiots who want a zero-year copyright, I am heartened by the fact that the large majority of Americans are in opposition to that kind of nonsense.

        "A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 67% of Likely U.S. Voters agree that someone who downloads a movie online without paying for it is stealing from the company that made the film. Eighteen percent (18%) do not view this free downloading as theft. Fifteen percent (15%) a
        • Ie, the MAFIAA has won on the propaganda front and made Joe Sixpack think copyright infringement is theft. Scary.

          This comes from controlling the entertainment for the masses.

    • by mdenham ( 747985 )

      ...and carefully wording patent law to disallow ... anything ... that isn't an actual physical single-purpose machine.

      In other words, if someone develops multiple new concepts all in a single machine - as a massively out-there example without the intent of conveying any sort of stereotype, a faster-than-light propulsion system that also provides radiation shielding - they shouldn't be able to patent it unless they can separate it into its individual components to operate on their own.

      While I have no problem with the portion I skipped over in that first sentence (processes shouldn't be patentable, and I consider software p

      • by Amouth ( 879122 )

        I'd settle for reducing that last bit to "...that isn't an actual physical machine that has at least one unpatented purpose." And then improving the checks for prior art, because that's where the other weak point in the patent system is.

        in that case the patent should only be for the "one un-patented purpose" else you will end up with the same things being patented over and over and over just in different context.. think back to the shear number of patents that exist now that have prior art outside the net but where re-patented by adding "on the web" or "in a network" things that are a natural progression of an idea.. Patents where meant for things that are non obvious. by allowing you to just tack a new way of using an existing inven

    • I'd vote for you if that helps you...

    • by Ihmhi ( 1206036 )

      The ideal would be a constitutional amendment. We'd have to word it very carefully and smartly and then make it good enough so that a whole bunch of people can rally around it.

      The second method prescribed is for a Constitutional Convention to be called by two-thirds of the legislatures of the States, and for that Convention to propose one or more amendments. These amendments are then sent to the states to be approved by three-fourths of the legislatures or conventions. This route has never been taken, and there is discussion in political science circles about just how such a convention would be convened, and what kind of changes it would bring about.

      http://www.usconstitution.net/constam.html [usconstitution.net]

      We'd need to ball up all of the major issues in how we've been screwed over into one megaamendment and get it ratified so as not to give politicians the opportunity to tear it apart.

      Do note that the above process - the one that has never been used - can completely bypass the federal government in its entirety.

      I'd also throw in somethi

      • by Greyfox ( 87712 )
        Funnily enough I don't think the forcibly repealing prohibition thing would fly. We got some medical marijuana laws here in Colorado and since then various towns have been banning dispensaries left and right. Seems that at least 51% of the people were fine with medical marijuana, just not in their back yard.
  • by vikingpower ( 768921 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @04:39AM (#39194963) Homepage Journal

    There is a major flaw in the thought framework underlying the entire initiative - which is, BTW, excellent and a nice illustration of the principle "if you can't beat 'em, embrace 'em" - IMHO: the idea is totally US-centric, In the minds of the initiators, law-making = US law.making = US Congress. As a European I vehemently protest. So would most Asians, who form by far the most numerous subset of internet users.


  • by beachdog ( 690633 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @05:24AM (#39195119) Journal

    What the Internet Blueprint project needs to do is create single draft law with supporting documentation. The draft needs hundreds of qualified voting advocates in all 50 of the United States.

    The question put to people seeking elective office needs to be "Are you for it or against it?" In every race, the advocates for a sane reform of copyright and patent law need to educate each candidate and get each candidate to answer "Yes or no" whether they will vote for the measure in Congress. The hundreds of advocates need to use the answers they hear to affect who is elected in their district.

    Representatives serve for 2 years and Senators serve in three staggered groups for 6 years. November 2012 is the deadline date to have a draft law that can be used as an election litmus test. In 2012, only 1/3 of the Senate will have faced the "For it or against it?" question. By 2014, 2/3 of Senate. By 2016 all of the Senate.

    The "For it or Against it" approach requires the draft law and the supporting documentation to meet a high standard of fairness. The balance struck needs a quality economic analysis.

    The law may be inspired by thinking from distinct ideological backgrounds (like Linux open source was) but the proposal should not be of a distinct political tone. But there is nothing wrong in giving it a distinct name like: "The American intellectual freedom advancement and copyright and patent revenue balancing Act."

    I think we should look for some kind of folding motion to create a relationship where the rights holders and users both benefit, (like automatic, cheap, easy, non-cumulative, distributive and time limited patent licenses.) The present system of building cartels and charging all the market will bear and stealing designs and secrets is a sleazy combative mess. A change in the licensing system will definitely need a quality economic analysis.

  • Unless these laws only specify rights, and not restrictions, then creating laws will only create further restrictions on freedom.

    Let freedom be access to all values in a set. Let a law define a subset of freedom. Laws do not define additional freedom, but rather restrict it. If laws are added continuously, without removing laws, you are left with the intersection of all of these laws, which will get narrower and narrower (smaller subset). Advocating the creation of laws should be frowned upon. We should adv

  • Iceland (Score:5, Informative)

    by Orphis ( 1356561 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @06:08AM (#39195273)

    That's exactly what's happening in Iceland ! After the 2008 crisis, the people didn't want to pay for the banks to be saved. Then they forced the government to leave and ditch the current consittution. Now, they are not just writing laws, they are writing a whole new crowdsourced constitution !

    They selected a few people who are in charge of making the new constitution, and then everybody can comment on what they propose on FB, Twitter, on their website... When it makes sense, they merge the suggestions into the draft and iterate again.

    And in the end, the new constitution will have to be accepted in a referendum and the "government" won't be able to change it. This is really "for the people, by the people" !
    And it's not a surprise that our leaders (in any country you could live in) don't talk about it...

  • I don't wonder. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ramin_HAL9001 ( 1677134 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @07:10AM (#39195511)

    Do you wonder why we the people don't propose our own laws, rather than just react whenever these bills slouch toward Congress to be born?

    No, I DO NOT wonder why people don't do this. How can you ensure a democracy if everyone participating is anonymous? How can you ensure that one person has exactly one vote? How do you prevent criminals from influencing policy by voting hundreds of times for their own laws?

    As it is now, wealthy people can make any laws they want, but it still requires the complicated process of bribing elected law makers with high-paying consulting jobs. If you take money out of the equation, anyone who figures out how to game your voting system will easily pass any laws they want by simply creating a huge number of sock-puppet voters.

    I hate how money, rather than common sense and compromise, has more influence over law, but a digital democracy simply won't work unless you can uniquely identify voters with sensitive personal data which no one wants (nor should they have to) provide to anyone anyway.

  • People thinking they can affect the government.

    In all seriousness though, as good as an idea as something like this is, I don't really see it getting too much done.
  • Without accountability.
  • How about if the elected folks actually try writing some laws instead of "introducing legislation" written up by industry. That's what they're supposed to be doing right? Take input from everyone, figure out (not be told) how to tweak things to make the country better, write up a bill, build consensus and get it passed. They're currently introducing some 200 bills per month because it's industry writing them, not the "law makers". It's no longer just lobbying but "here get this passed for me".

    They should
    • by Shotgun ( 30919 )

      How about (at least at the Federal level) the bills are required to state which part of the Constitution gives Congress the power to pass the bill? That would get rid of most of them.

  • Wouldn't you like a place where you and a few like-minded amateur lawmakers could get together and do it right?

    We already tried that. The result was Congress.

    The problem is that one group thinks they know how to "do it right" and wants to impose their vision of right on others. That will always be the problem with this idea. That was the problem in 1789, and that is going to be a problem with this proposal today.

    For some stimulating thinking about law, read Whatever Happened to Justice? by Richard Mayberry.

    • Wouldn't you like a place where you and a few like-minded amateur lawmakers could get together and do it right?

      We already tried that. The result was Congress.

      Yes, our federal Congress. But there are other legislative bodies that have taken the career income incentive out of the equation, such as New Hampshire. Their state senators make $100/yr (not a typo -- one hundred dollars per year) and it has been that way for nearly a century. Compare to California where the average salary was over $113k (as of 2007).

      If we take the pay incentive away from career politicians you're left with those who actually care about their constituency -- otherwise they have no other r

      • by jdavidb ( 449077 )
        I do not believe the career incentive was the problem. I believe the idea of a group of people forcing their ideas of right and wrong on others is the problem. Every human being is an "amateur lawmaker," paid or not, using "amateur" in the sense of "not professional grade, unqualified."
      • by jdavidb ( 449077 )
        Judging by your source links (e.g., the FSP), I think it's a safe bet you have an interest in libertarianism. If so, I would strongly recommend that book from my original post: Whatever Happened to Justice? It'll talk a lot about Common Law and some other things that will probably sit right with someone with libertarian leanings.
  • Whenever a story like this is posted, about people who are trying to actually fix our broken legal system, it collects tons of comments explaining why the idea can never work: politicians won't let it, the new idea will just get subverted by entrenched interests, the public isn't really competent to write laws anyway, etc. etc. etc. And then those same people go back to complaining about how the current system is broken and just serves the wealthy and powerful.

    It's time to actually do something useful. Th

  • Another similar crowd-sourced legislation that shows a lot of promise is: http://www.youlaws.org/ [youlaws.org] They cover all policy, not just internet policy. They are currently looking for paid developers (python I believe).
  • Might work better if the site were readable.

"Conversion, fastidious Goddess, loves blood better than brick, and feasts most subtly on the human will." -- Virginia Woolf, "Mrs. Dalloway"