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SXSW Interactive 2013

Is the Internet America's Third Party

In 2012, you had bitter, polarized Republicans and Democrats – and then you had the Internet. If any of that was in doubt, on January 18, 2012 the Internet officially arrived. SOPA and PIPA were the bills that may be discussed for years to come as the acronyms that changed it all. In the form of 3.9 million tweets, 2,000 people a second trying to call their Members and more than 5,000 people a minute signing petitions, netizens from across the nation spoke out.

January 18th was far more meaningful than just stopping those bills. The 18th was the day that millions of Americans - Internet users all of them - decided not to give up on the political process. Broken as it is with special interest and big money lawmaking, regular people actually made a difference. People, representing every political ideology or none at all, whose voices have been trampled and silenced by Washington-For-Sale, actually stopped a bill. And not one bill, but two.

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  1. Is the Internet a genuine ray of hope among the ruins of American politics? Is the Internet is America’s long-awaited third party?
  2. Can it be a platform of, and for, former foes who seek to keep the Internet vibrant, free, and most of all – open to innovation? How does that happen practically in a gridlocked Congress, beholden to superPACs and corporate cronyism? Is it even possible, or was SOPA-PIPA an aberration?
  3. How do we use the Internet and its users as platform to advance our collective and uniquely American goals of freedom, equality and independence regardless of our political ideologies, or even, in spite of them?
  4. And how do we do that in a inherently global medium that does not necessarily support those ideals?
  5. We've done a lot of self-congratulating, but what do we do now?



Katie Barr, Vice President, Glen Echo Group

Meta Information:

  • Event: Interactive
  • Format: Panel
  • Track: Government and Civic Engagement
  • Level: Beginning
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