October 25, 2012 | By Adi Kamdar and Maira Sutton

Internet Freedom Advocates Answer Questions on Reddit IAmA

Yesterday, EFF joined in an Ask Me Anything (AMA) thread on Reddit about Internet freedom with a particular focus on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. 

EFF's Adi Kamdar, Carolina Rossini, Maira Sutton, Mark M. Jaycox, and Trevor Timm joined groups like OpenMedia.ca, Public Knowledge, Public Citizen, ACLU, as well as notable Internet figures such as Mike Masnick of Techdirt, Andrew Rasiej from Personal Democracy Media, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, and Cheezurger CEO Ben Huh.

Hundreds of users asked questions about topics ranging from TPP's harsh intellectual property provisions to mobile privacy.

User 1Monkeyman asked, "Why is there no prominent media coverage of TPP?" While press coverage for TPP has increased a fair bit over the past month, though it's not really prominent enough. We answered:

It's our job as digital rights advocates to explain these policies in a way that will convince people that these agreements would have a real impact on their lives. We believe that the better job we do in highlighting the core concerns in the TPP, the better the media coverage will be. The point with is to get more and more attention. We need people to never stop demanding that entrenched powers stop messing with the Internet. We need more heroes in this fight! We all need to be part of this Internet Immune System!

User prsnep commented about the consistency of "doom and gloom" acronyms when it comes to Internet-related agreements and legislation. We said:

Exactly. The copyright lobbies have consolidated the use of foreign and international forums as an indirect means of pushing policies, a strategy known as policy laundering. They do this in order to push forward with policies that wouldn't otherwise win direct approval through regular, more democratic, domestic political avenues, and they'll keep attempting to do so until they succeed.

The shift from more open, democratic fora like the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) or the World Trade Organization (WTO) to bilateral and regional trade agreements (like TPP and ACTA) confirms this. Policy laundering takes advantage of the fact that most international bodies and negotiation venues have not institutionalized democratic rulemaking into their structure, thereby shutting out public input and civil society participation in the process. And of course, the entertainment lobby applauds this. It is well known for instance, that provisions of the US DMCA were the result of policy laundering.

While EFF will never get tired of fighting international agreements with deeply problematic IP provisions, we struggle with the problem of giving our members "doom" fatigue. The way we deal with it is to choose our battles wisely, be conscious of how we frame issues for the public, and figure out all the points where we can hit 'em where it'll hurt most.

One user, vasudeva89, asked if EFF and related advocacy groups focus solely on Western countries. We responded:

EFF has an international team that is dedicated to fighting for digital rights globally. Our team is separated into three issue areas: free speech, privacy/international rights, and intellectual property. We all do what we can to cover emerging Internet freedom issues around the world, influence proper policymakers, and most importantly, support and work with digital rights organizations and movements on the ground.

Finally, when user vault101damner asked us what folks can do to help with TPP-related activism, we responded:

In addition to signing the petition (and all of you should do this), here's what you can do:

First, and easiest, is to contact your members of Congress through our action center. More than just a petition, this lets them know directly why we need to put an end to backroom deals like TPP. You, as a member of civil society, deserve to know what's going on.

You can also use Public Knowledge's action to contact the White House and Public Citizen's tool to write letters to major news outlets. OpenMedia also has a comprehensive page full of resources.

If you're in New Zealand, Chile, Peru, or Japan, there are a few country-specific actions that you can take.

Second, we need your help spreading the word about the grave intellectual property provisions of TPP and the dangers to Internet freedom. Tell your friends. Tweet about it, post it to Facebook, use whatever social media service you have at your disposal. You saw how the Internet could rally together during the SOPA/PIPA fight—let's do that again for TPP.

It was an exciting moment, as Internet advocates from across the US and around the world came to coalesce and discuss digital rights around the particular issues which users themselves find troubling and interesting. We urge you to explore the full thread and read the many thoughtful discussions that arose throughout the day.

We would like to especially thank the folks at OpenMedia.ca for organizing this event, and all the other members of the StopTheTrap Coalition for making it the success that it was. Read the complete AMA here, and check out coverage of the event by The Daily Dot.


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