When the tech industry wants to engage, it works through organizations like the Information Technology Industry Council in Washington that work face-to-face with public officials and their staffs, it doesn’t create yet another web site where anonymous commenters can made poorly-informed changes to moribund legislative vehicles. When Washington and Sacramento want to engage with the tech industry, they reach out to ITIC at the national level and state-focused groups like TechNet in California.
Public officials are a lot more interested in the jobs created by Intel’s latest fab than by the jobs lost by the administrators of Reddit’s sleazy “Jailbait” and “Creepshots” sections when their identities are made public. The logic is pretty plain: Intel employs tens of thousands of people and produces essential elements of the tech economy such as integrated circuits, while Reddit and similar incubator-cooked web sites employ almost no paid labor and traffic in sexually suggestive photos of teenaged girls and “up-skirt” photos of women’s underwear taken from shoe mounted cameras. It’s not a subtle distinction.
As anyone who works in public policy can tell you, the most important part of the job is the analysis of the impact of particular policies. The bad bills all come from consensus positions that no one dares to question because supporting them has become a matter of tribal membership. You don’t come to the correct position on a policy question by simply surveying TechNet, Engine Advocacy, and The Internet Association. You come to it by examining the questions, reading the bills, and working out the implications. There is no “popularity short cut” in this process.
And when you’ve figured out what you want and why you want it, you don’t make your thinking known to public officials by scribbling anonymous nonsense on a web site, you come forward as a real person with a real name to make your sentiments known in a way that encourages direct dialog. Anything less is just playing at policy, not making it. Anonymous commentary on the web may make you feel like an activist, but it doesn’t make an impact on the world.
Richard Bennett gives TechCrunch a curt slap for “playing at policy” – The Tech Industry’s Odd Relationship with Government