Dec. 30, 2011 -- Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan denied co-sponsoring the Stop Online Piracy Act in a statement yesterday but his stand may have come too late, as the wrath of the internet has come pounding on his front door.
Introduced this fall, SOPA's supporters claim the measure will protect copyrighted media from being shared online; however, its detractors say it's a way to allow governments and copyrights holders to censor the Internet and shut down sites.
The Wisconsin representative is now dealing with the hive mind of Reddit.com, the same group that successfully pressured GoDaddy into withdrawing its SOPA support this week. Redditors have found a new strategy in their fight against the controversial act: narrowing down SOPA supporters who have seats up for grabs in this year's election cycle and funding their opponents.
Suggestions quickly rose up the Reddit ranks to remove from office Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bob Corker of Tennessee, but of the many potential targets who were discussed and debated on the site, eventually Reddit landed on Paul Ryan. In addition to being up for reelection this fall in Wisconsin, Ryan had previously released an unclear statement regarding his stance on SOPA that had the internet pegging him as a supporter.
Once word of Reddit's plan to remove Ryan from Congress started to spread, his challenger Rob Zerban was savvy enough to embrace the community right away, participating in an "Ask Me Anything" interview with the site's users and quickly denouncing both GoDaddy and SOPA, saying the act "would devastate the free nature of the internet by allowing unilateral closing down of popular websites." After less than 36 hours, "Operation Pull Ryan" was born and over $7,500 has been donated to Zerban's campaign.
Ryan's camp was quick to respond to the negative buzz, denying any support of the act, offering a press release stating, "Contrary to false reports, Congressman Paul Ryan is not a cosponsor of H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act. He remains committed to advancing policies that protect free speech and foster innovation online and will continue to follow the House Judiciary Committee's deliberations on this issue carefully."
While Ryan's stance on SOPA is not set in stone, his opponent's firm statements against the act have been enough to captapult him to the top of Reddit's infamous front page for the last three days.
The impact of this campaign remains to be seen and it will be interesting to watch what happens with Ryan and Zerban as we near November's elections. Earlier this month, comedian Louis C.K. appealed to Reddit directly and saw over $1 million in revenue pour in for his online-only comedy special. If Reddit's campaign fundraising can come anywhere close to the bounty Louis C.K. took in a few weeks ago, there could be some serious cash in Rob Zerban's pockets before 2011 is up.
What's more, if an internet-wide rally to unseat one congressman works, it could send a huge message about the power of the internet community and its ability to change politics.