Viddy well, little brother. Viddy well.
from A Clockwork Orange, written by Stanley Kubrick based on the novel by Anthony Burgess
As we noted in Fair Copyright Canada and 100,000 Voters Who Don’t Exist back in 2009, the legitimate desire by governments to use the Internet to engage with the governed is to be admired. But there have been incredible and probably illegal uses of the Internet to overwhelm elected officials with faux communications that reek of Google-style misinformation and central planning in the hive mind of the Googleplex.
We saw this again with the Article 13 vote in Europe last week with what clearly seems to be a Google-backed attack on the European Parliament for the purpose of policy intimidation. That’s right–an American-based multinational corporation is trying to intimidate the very same European government that is currently investigating them for anticompetitive behavior and is staring down a multi-billion dollar fine.
Advocacy against Google’s interests on artist rights and copyright issues (not to mention human trafficking, advertising illegal drugs and counterfeit goods) can no longer be just about making a good argument to policy makers. It has to anticipate that Google will pull these DDOS-type stunts capitalizing on what seems to be the element of surprise.
Except there shouldn’t be any surprise.
There is a real problem with policy-by-DDOS governing. For example, Cass Sunstein, then the Administrator of the Obama Office of Management and Budget, issued a memo in 2010 to the heads of executive branch departments and regulatory agencies which dealt with the use of social media and web-based interactive technologies.
Specifically, the Sunstein memo warned that “[b]ecause, in general, the results of online rankings, ratings, and tagging (e.g., number of votes or top rank) are not statistically generalizable, they should not be used as the basis for policy or planning.” Sunstein called for exercising caution with public consultations:
To engage the public, Federal agencies are expanding their use of social media and web- based interactive technologies. For example, agencies are increasingly using web-based technologies, such as blogs, wikis, and social networks, as a means of “publishing” solicitations for public comment and for conducting virtual public meetings.
The European Parliament would do well to take a page from Sunstein’s thinking and limit the amount of anonymous contact that anyone can have with MEPs when the European Parliament is suffering a DDOS-style attack.
But the most important thing for the European Commission to take into account is that a company that is the target of multiple investigations is using the very market place monopoly that caused the competition investigations to intimidate the European government into bending to its will on Article 13. (That, of course, is the biggest difference between the Europeans and Article 13 and the Americans and SOPA–the US government had dropped the US antitrust investigation into Google and it had unparalleled access to the White House. So the two are really nothing alike at all.)
The European Commission needs to launch a full-blown criminal investigation into exactly what happened on Article 13, particularly since there is another vote on the same subject coming in September. Properly authorized law enforcement acting swiftly can set sufficient digital snares to track the next attack which surely is coming while they forensically try to figure out what happened.
Advocates need to understand that Google is a deadly force and this is the endless war. Good arguments are clearly not enough anymore, particularly as long as the government and law enforcement do nothing to protect democratic values from bully boy tactics.