Clicktivism is taking over the Canadian copyright debate

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From Hugh Stephens Blog:

How a supposed grass-roots movement has used the latest technology to give the impression of huge local groundswells of public opinion against protections for intellectual property.

Open Media is at it again. This Vancouver-based self-described advocate of Internet freedom, an organization that claims to believe in “participatory democracy” and “freedom of expression,” has been busy manipulating public opinion and trying to influence lawmakers in various countries, including Canada, with spurious astroturfing campaigns against copyright protection.

It has been caught red-handed more than once engaging in these activities and is unapologetic, even bragging about its successes on its website using euphemisms such as “crowdsourcing” and the “engagement pyramid” to justify its actions.

What is astroturfing? This is now the term of choice to describe the use of technology to create the pretence of widespread public support, or protest. It is usually used in the negative sense, to create the impression of a “groundswell” of public opinion against a particular measure that is under public discussion.

. . . .

Open Media is part owner of, a for-hire entity which facilitates and mounts large-scale online campaigns designed to give the impression to the target audience (e.g., Members of the European Parliament [MEPs]; Canada’s Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology which is reviewing Canada’s copyright laws; Members of the US Congress) that there is a rising grassroots movement, in this case against copyright protection. New Mode describes itself thusly:

“We founded one of the world’s largest and most successful online campaigning organizations, OpenMedia, and led campaigns for progressive advocacy organizations and politicians. Our founders saw the power of community-driven campaigns first-hand.

Now, we’re putting the powerful tools used by the world’s leading campaigns into more campaigners’ pockets.

New/Mode was born to help progressive organizations activate grassroots power and win more change.”

In a recent case of Open Media astroturfing, meticulously documented by blogger David Lowery in The Trichordist, New Mode/Open Media was behind much of the misinformation spread by anti-copyright elements in Europe against the EU’s proposed Article 13. Article 13 was one element of proposed revisions to EU copyright law that would require websites who primarily host content posted by users to take “effective and proportionate” measures to prevent unauthorised postings of copyrighted content or be liable for their users’ actions. As a result of an online lobbying campaign led by Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda and facilitated by New Mode/Open Media, which focused on the claim that Internet companies would become “censorship machines,” in early July EU lawmakers narrowly rejected the proposal. The good news is that after further discussion and amendments, it was passed resoundingly on September 12, a victory for content creators. However, further steps are still required before it becomes law and major astroturfing can be expected as opponents rally against the most recent vote.

Link to the rest at Hugh Stephens Blog

7 thoughts on “Clicktivism is taking over the Canadian copyright debate”

  1. I see it quite differently.

    “manipulating public opinion”? Isn’t that part of the function of a lobby group?

    OpenMedia is a lobby group without the usual big industry $$ behind them, so in that sense it is “grassroots” (which he doesn’t define).

    He’s not even defining “astroturfing” correctly. It involves some kind of “power-behind-the-throne” organization/company that is pulling the strings, but hidden from view. None of that here.

    I see OpenMedia providing me with tools to get my views on issues (copyright, privacy, etc.) in front of the right people in government.

    This isn’t “astroturfing” at all.

    • When the Astrodome went up, they found it not worth the effort keeping real grass growing for playing baseball/football – not when things like rodeos and tractor pulls would just tear it up again.

      So the fake grass they used was call AstroTurf. After a while fake ‘grass roots’ movements were called ‘astroturfing’.

      So if there’s no ‘real’ grass root concern over whatever – but just some con-men making noise or claiming to be one – that is indeed ‘astroturfing’. The size or open/concealed plays no part in what they are doing.

      • As a private content creator without the resources to fight the Canadian government overreaching with bs like an Internet tax (adding a levy to internet bills to prop up CanCon like the CBC because of the threat of Netflix), or putting the onus on bloggers to make sure nothing they link is an accidental copyright violation or have their website shut down without due process, I’m part of the grassroots movement.

        Even if some corporate money is going to OpenMedia, that’s not astroturfing. This guy throws the term around like a kid who’s just learned a big word, and kinda sounds like a corporate shill himself. Only big corporations care about enforcing copyright, because the little guy is just an IP source to be milked. WE, the real grassroots, don’t benefit from tighter copyright controls—one might argue we never benefitted from copyright at all, but that’s fuel for a much larger post.

        • “How a supposed grass-roots movement has used the latest technology to give the impression of huge local groundswells of public opinion against protections for intellectual property.”

          “”supposed grass-roots movement””

          The question is simple – are the people they are claiming to be actually up in arms over some issue?

          I’m in Texas. If some joker in New York City is trying to tell the world that all of Texas is up in arms over something we don’t give a rat’s behind about – that there is astroturfing. In that case they are misrepresenting the people they claim to be/represent.

          That was what I was commenting on, the definition of astroturfing.

          If they actually represent people with actual concerns then good for them. If they are putting words in those people’s mouths then I hope they choke on their AstroTurf! 😉

          • Yes, you already said, and I’m saying this is not the case here.

            Here are some of the actual grassroots campaigns OpenMedia has drummed up:
            – Fighting against an Internet Tax because literally nobody wants this except greedy goverment and corporations who stand to rake in all that dough.
            – Fighting against levys on smartphones, because the record industry still wants to punish consumers for listening to mp3s.
            – Lobbying to have Internet access declared an essential communications service, in the hopes this will lower Internet prices and increase access in rural areas, something that all Canadians can get behind.
            – Lobbying to have limit caps on how much Telecoms can charge for mobile services and data plans, because prices for that are ridiculous in Canada.

            So those are all things average citizens want. What’s the guy who wrote this blog post stand for?
            – Corporations bullying governments into allowing them to punish consumers, silence services they don’t like, and shut down their smaller competition. Yeah, something the average citizen can totally get behind :rollseyes:

      • OpenMedia gets my signature on every campaign I believe in and have researched myself, as a private content creator concerned about Internet censorship. That is actual grass roots. Just because they have some corporate funding doesn’t automatically make them “astroturfing” con men.

        On the other hand, this dude who is so concerned about corporate lobbiests getting their draconian copyright laws passed—he sure sounds like a con man, or at the very least a corporate shill.

        Edit: Sorry, I thought my first post got eaten because this site doesn’t like my VPN.

    • On this side of the border the difference between grassroots and astroturfing depends on which hidden puppeteer is pulling the strings and which side of the debate you’re on.

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