When public debate over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) came to a head at the end of 2011, politicians had been bombarded with petitions, tweets and Facebook posts from people who opposed the bill. A majority of lawmakers – including President Obama – ultimately came out against the legislation. But there was just one problem, according to Government Executive:
“Through social media, ordinary citizens told Congress and the president what they didn’t want. But the filmmakers, recording artists and others concerned about protecting intellectual property rights, many of whom supported SOPA, had a legitimate beef. And there was no good way to gauge what measures the public would support to address that.”
To reconcile this issue, a group of staffers in the office of Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., conceived of a creative solution:
“As the debate over SOPA rose to a boil, they launched the Madison Project, an online forum where users could comment on proposed legislation, suggest alternative text and vote those suggestions up or down. It was a cross between Microsoft Word’s track changes function and crowdsourced book reviews on Amazon.”
A spokesperson for the Madison Project, Seamus Kraft, told Government Executive that the project received 150,000 unique visitors on its first day of launch. Many of these people submitted ‘useful’ content and edits, which were ultimately used by Issa’s team to develop an alternative to SOPA, the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act.
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