When Darrell Issa dipped into the online conversation on Reddit eight months ago, the conservative California congressman and former tech entrepreneur was hailed by some as a hero for having helped stop the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act, two bills that were deeply unpopular with the Web.
Wednesday, Issa was back on Reddit, where he held an "Ask Me Anything" session and proposed a bill that would ban regulations on the Internet for two years. "Together, we can make Washington take a break from messing w/the Internet," he wrote.
But some Redditors weren't buying what Issa was selling this time around.
The first question the congressman received scolded him: "Hey Darrell, why did you vote for CISPA?" As did the second: "Why the sudden reversal? You were a co-sponsor of CISPA, but now you don't want any internet regulation. Did anything happen, say maybe about three weeks ago to the day, that caused you to change your mind?"
The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act is a proposed law, supported by Issa, that would allow the federal government to share Internet traffic information with technology and other companies. Issa noted Wednesday that he had already explained why he supported CISPA, which was essentially because he believed the benefits for Web users' safety outweighed the risks to Internet freedom.
But the criticism kept rolling in, as it often does on Reddit, a community that skews liberal and considers politicians less than trustworthy. One user wrote: "This guy is using you, he has no intention of actually making the Internet free," while another said: "Darrell Issa opposes essentially everything we fight for here on Reddit."
Elsewhere on the Web, technology blogs picked apart Issa's proposed law. Gizmodo wrote that a "blanket ban" on any legislation was a bad idea, and that the idea needed more thought. ZDNet asked whether the bill might be more harm than good.
Boing Boing gave the bill a tepid endorsement, suggesting a two-year ban could give Internet freedom activists time "to prepare an offense game, rather than having to always be reacting" to proposals to censor or surveil the Web.
But Mashable echoed the concerns of some Reddit users in calling the bill's timing "suspect." The bill from Issa, a top Republican, could prevent President Barack Obama from impacting technology policy for the next two years.
A spokesman for Issa defended the bill's timing, saying that with six weeks left in this Congress, "we want to use this time productively."
"What we learned from SOPA and PIPA and our Internet battles, large and small, is that closed doesn't work, secretive doesn't work," the spokesman said. "The reason the congressman is proposing this now is to give time for everyone involved — from the individual Internet user to job creators who would potentially be impacted — to have time and space to discuss and debate this."
Issa, to his credit, seems keen to make this an open debate. "Like all legislation, it's open to enhancements as to its verbage," Issa wrote Wednesday. "Hope we can flesh out the... bill together."
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