With the Australian government seeking to push through their ‘clean feed’ legislation and effectively censor chunks of the internet from the public, an important fight over our rights as citizens has broken out taking the form of the #nocleanfeed movement.
A movement which suffers from a PR problem.
While the majority of the ‘internet savvy’ can wrap their heads around the lingo of #nocleanfeed, to a layperson, it would appear strange to be arguing that we want a ‘dirty’ feed. For this reason, the language of #nocleanfeed is unclear and does not serve the purpose of the movement. To succeed, the greater populace needs to get behind the idea, and to do that, we need language that they understand and can relate to.
A perfect example of this phenomenon comes from US political pollster Frank Luntz who when working with the republican party, nailed the language required to change support for what was the ‘estate tax’ (which a large % of the population supported, since they didn’t think taxing an ‘estate’ was such a bad idea) but when relabeling the estate tax to a “Death Tax’ (ie: you were taxed on your death..) it changed the support for the tax considerably as people realised this tax applied to them on their death, not some abstract concept of an ‘estate’.
This is what #nocleanfeed needs, the movement needs to engage with your ‘average’ voter and speak with them in their own language about how this will impact them in their daily lives. Pushing the idea of #nocleanfeed is too abstract a concept for these people and will not result in their support for the campaign.
My currently preferred choices for branding the campaign include #openinternet and #netneutrality, but these would require a wholesale reworking of all the efforts this far. Is the disruption worth it to change direction with the campaign? Maybe not, but I can’t see the movement succeeding in its current incarnation.
**Update** Some people are confusing my post as simply a call to change the hashtag and continue as we have been campaigning online. This is not my intent, fracturing the existing movement is counterproductive and would only be useful if an overwhelming number of people supported it.
What is necessary though, is the #nocleanfeed campaigners, when transferring their action offline, is a concerted effort to frame the language in a way that appeals to Joe Public, saying #nocleanfeed to a these people conjures up the following:
1) Something that won’t affect their browsing, because they are ‘not paedophiles’
2) Something that will protect the children
But as we all know, this isn’t the case. Framing the issue instead as something (for example) that will affect their download speeds for legitimate sites, and due to errors in the system see their favorite overseas sites ‘accidentally placed on the list (as with that Dentist in QLD) is needed to communicate the everyday impact this will have on *everyone*.
I also really like the approach in the comments by @nicwalmsley below, so I’ve cut and paste his comment here to highlight his point.
Everyone still seems focused on the internal process within the various internet-based movements that oppose the government’s censorship policy. We need to forget that, and move onto the details of how we can build this into a popular civil rights movement.
Forget the internet angle – it doesn’t matter which form of communication is censored, it is the censorship that is the issue; the average person doesn’t care if the net is a bit slower; just drop the whole “free internet thing” – it’s not the point
Some censorship is right and proper and is widely supported – you can’t just say “no censorship” because it goes against hundreds of years of political philosophy and practice; don’t get bogged down in the technicalities of whether the government can or cannot block bad porn, just say “yes it is great you are trying to block that stuff, we all agree with it, but that is not the problem with your plan”
Focus on the fundamental problem with the Government’s plan – they are going to open the door to banning political content! Every conversation should quickly drift you, “yeah, but they are gonna ban political stuff like euthanasia and abortion and who the hell knows what else – you might disagree with it, but we don’t need to ban that stuff?”
We need the Liberal party to come on board. Sorry but they are the opposition and so if they say “sure” to the Govt then we have lost before the whistle’s even blown, but if the Libs see a sensible civil movement building up against this, and they can see that there are weak points in the Government plan (ie, political censorship), then they will do what oppositions do – seek amendments and frustrate the government’s agenda.
There is something fundamentally wrong with the idea of banning discussion of criminal activity, because it presupposes that the law will never change. If it is black and white, sure, but if it is conceivable that the law could change, then we should never accept a prohibition on discussing it.
What about fiction: are they going to ban a story about abortion or euthanasia or drug taking?
So it should be “No to Political Censorship in Australia” and the main argument we should be driving is, you can try and block bad porn and terrorism, great, but don’t start banning political stuff because there’s no saying where that will lead.
I still think the language used online needs to change, but doing so in a fractured way is only going to hurt the #nocleanfeed movement. @DarkStarSword created Twibbons for #netneutrality and #openinternet that you can use if you like. However I would like to see a phased transition to something like #openinternet with both terms being used for a time to see if #openinternet gains traction. But most importantly, what I want you to take away from this post, is that preaching to the converted isn’t the answer, we need to make noise in spaces other than Facebook and Twitter, that will reach the average voter in language that is appropriate for them, to create a groundswell of support sufficient to convince the Liberal Party and Independents that the clean feed is a bad idea.