Ralph Benko
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Continued from last week

Two years ago, Hollywood, no kidding, masterminded a plot to, in effect, steal the Internet (by criminalizing certain conduct, booby trapping the Web in ways that few non-mega-corporations can cope with). There are signs, as perceptively flagged by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, that the perps are back at it.

The second part of this two-part column reveals an untold part of the story about how they were stopped last time. And shows how, if not again stopped, how it could lead to a fundamental loss of civil rights and freedom on the Internet.

The offending legislation was barreling down the track, seemingly — even in the eyes of the big Internet companies — unstoppable. According to Seamus Kraft, a former Congressional aide intimately involved with stopping the attempted hijacking:

“Enter Team [Darrell] Issa, just before Thanksgiving 2011. A markup for the legislation had been scheduled for mid-December. We had 3 weeks to interdict a scheme that had been in the works for years. And the schemers had all the money and all the guns.

“Team Issa decided that its only hope was to alert the world — and allow a counterforce to mobilize and tell their government how crippling passing this legislation would be. We went into a whiteboarding session — me and 3 developers — walked into a room and walked out 2 days later, bleary eyed.

“What we had developed, nicknamed Madison, is something that would allow everyone to participate, constructively, in the writing of bills. Basically, we hacked together a way that brings in everyone who had been shut out of the process.”

An upshot of that event, not so incidentally, is OpenGovFoundation.org, underwritten mostly by the Knight Foundation and headed by Kraft, bringing constituent light into the legislative and rulemaking process. For his work Kraft was dubbed one of “the 20 most innovative people in democracy 2012” by Techcrunch.com). Kraft:

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Ralph Benko

Ralph Benko, author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to use the Web to transform the world and an advisor to the American Principles Project.