I can’t praise the Digital Economy Bill and I wish it had been buried. It was a bad bill and will be a terrible act of law. I opposed the bill and lobbied people within the Labour party explaining why I thought it was a bad bill. I will not defend the Labour government on this occasion and condemn the three line whip that was applied. I think ministers were in the pocket of the music industry because that interest group was better organised, more coherent and had preferential access.
It’s tempting to concentrate on the process of legislation and note that no law should be passed as quickly and without proper scrutiny as the #DEBill was. But despite that venial sin, it’s the content of the bill that’s cardinal. Again: it was a bad bill. Section 11 to 18 in particular.
I do want to make three observations:
Our lawmakers don’t understand the web: I’m not defending anyone here but it is worth noting that many of our representatives have little experience or knowledge of (even concern for) the web. The bill was announced last autumn but it seems like much of our opposition didn’t emerge until the past few weeks. Big business and interest groups got in there first. I think that we geeks (techies, netizens,
We need a movement: There is no reason why a varied and huge group such as “concerned webby types” should have an organisation to express a collective voice. But we did need it. Even the Open Rights Group, to name one organisation that did good work, isn’t influential enough, even with best efforts, to make the noise we needed. I’ve seen the sort of campaigns that are conducted to persuade and inform MPs. Organisations protecting water voles have managed more coherent and influential lobbying campaigns than we managed opposing the #DEBill. Whether we like it or not, proper lobbying is influential. Some demos, unfocussed letter-writing and emails and Twitter outrage isn’t lobbying enough. (Especially when your MP probably doesn’t get the web. See point above.)
Slacktivism is just that: Twittering about how you oppose a bill doesn’t necessarily reach the people it should. Affirming on Twitter how you won’t abide by a law isn’t enough either. We need to be better campaigners and sometimes that means we need to be proficient lobbyists via traditional analogue means. I wonder if we managed as many emails and letters to MPs as we managed complaints to the PPC re Jan Moir?
The bogeyman on this occasion was, without doubt, a Labour government forcing through a bad bill on a three line whip. We let one through this time. But let’s get ready for the next one that will inevitably follow.