The eighth annual New York Tech Meetup on Thursday focused on the post-election Internet policy.
Andrew Rasiej, the chairman of the tech meetup, said the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect Intellectual Property Act were “a wake-up call for the tech community” that showed people the importance of paying attention to what is happening in Washington, D.C. regarding internet freedom.
As explained by 62-year-old Bill Gordon, who played an active role in the SOPA protests, Internet regulation is difficult to define.
“Piracy is not a good thing, but if you say you’re going after piracy and you shut down a whole raft of other freedoms that’s a mistake,” Gordon said.
Some attendees were optimistic, including Susan Crawford, the former technology assistant to President Obama.
“If the president is re-elected, he’ll be a lot freer to be stronger,” Crawford said. “He’s already been very strong on the Internet and I don’t want us to forget that.”
Obama previously expressed his support for an open Internet at the United Nations in 2010.
Renowned venture capitalist Fred Wilson disagreed, emphasizing that the president should act on his words by vetoing bills in Congress.
“He didn’t get in the way of the cyber security bill,” Wilson said. “He didn’t get in the way of SOPA. He hasn’t gotten in the way of any of the nonsense that Congress has tried to throw at this industry.”
Rasiej shared this sentiment.
“The political system does not want an open internet, since it’s a direct threat to their power,” he said.
Because of this, Rasiej said the younger generation, including the students at NYU who rely so much on the Internet, will be called upon to fight back against government encroachment on online freedoms.
“There probably won’t be another direct attack on the Internet the way the SOPA and PIPA bills were,” Rasiej said in an interview before the event. “There will be a thousand little attacks that are hard to recognize.”
He explained that the event aimed to grab the attention of the new generation and to encourage them to be engaged in the political process.
But some NYU students seemed unfamiliar with Internet regulation legislation.
“I don’t know all that much about it, but from what I’ve heard it limits what I can do on the Internet,” said Gallatin freshman John Bradshaw.
To Rasiej, addressing this challenge will be necessary to fulfill the Internet’s promise, which is “a more sustainable democracy, not only in this country, but around the world.”
Issac Marshall is a staff writer. Email him at email@example.com.
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