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If you think Congress should learn more about the internet, then you should learn more about Congress

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There's a heated discussion taking place about the consequences of the Stop Online Piracy Act, and also about how Congress is handling it.

Congress with tech
Congress with tech

We're planning our own in-depth look at the Stop Online Piracy Act, but in the meantime there's a heated discussion taking place about the consequences of the bill, and also about how Congress is handling it — on Friday, Joshua Kopstein penned a scathing editorial for Motherboard in which he claims that key representatives still don't know (and don't care to know) how the internet works. He mentions Rep. Mel Watt of North Carolina who grinned to the committee and admitted he's "not a nerd," but went on to dismiss "the very evidence he didn't understand and then downplay the need for a panel of experts." Kopstein says it's an "absurdity that we have members of Congress voting on a technical bill who do not posses any technical knowledge of the subject and do not find it imperative to recognize those who do." But not everyone thinks the internet-literacy ball is entirely in Congress' court.

Clay Johnson, who worked on Barack Obama's 2008 online campaign, says in a response to Kopstein that while it's bad for Congress to be ill-informed about something they're regulating, it's also bad for activists to be ignorant of Congress' inner workings. He says Washington's methods are not going to change by the time SOPA deliberations have ended, and that those who best educate Congress usually end up with the winning legislation (and he says that right now the lobbyists are winning). To get the big money out of the equation, Johnson says that Congress needs new technological tools to help representatives actually hear their constituents, instead of adhering to needlessly restrictive technology rules and using software that was built in the 1990s. Of course, that means for Congress to hear citizens on an issue like SOPA, they'd have to first convince representatives to adopt new tech for themselves. It's definitely worth the effort, but the real question is whether Congress is willing to listen.