Last week I joined 5,000 other people on Twitter whilst watching Members of Parliament discuss the Digital Economy Bill in the House of Commons on BBC iPlayer. A great opportunity, or so I thought, to socialise with like minded individuals and watch our leaders debate the future use of the Internet. Instead I was left feeling like the little boy that didn’t get what he wanted for Christmas.
Now I don’t get involved in politics much, I shout at the TV on Thursday nights with the best of them whilst an MP avoids giving a direct answer on Question Time. But I am not one to join a march or protest. This debate though was about something I hold close to my heart and the thought of the freedom and levelling effect the Internet offers being stripped away stews me up.
One aspect of this Bill was copyright, everyone will have their views on this, but it’s not what concerned me in this debate. My focus was on the threat to our access of the Internet and some of the clauses in this Bill that could see that access taken away. Not even at a personal level though, more from the view of a café, library or other business that offers wireless access as a benefit to it’s customers. The damage to their business that could occur if their Internet access was blocked due to miss-use by a 3rd party. Or even the costs involved for a small business to protect themselves from such an act. Also, the way in which a copyright holder could demand information and issue threatening letters and possibly force disconnection without trial. These seemed draconian methods forced by lobbying.
What then appeared before me was more distressing. Politicians explaining how perpetrators could be tracked, sent letters and disconnected but they had not got a clue what they were talking about. The incomprehension of technical acronyms such as IP address (Internet Protocol) stated as being Intellectual Property address. Using email to track people, no thought of the use of Proxy Servers or other cloaking technology. No idea that not all Peer-to-Peer file sharing is law breaking, it’s a perfectly acceptable way to distribute large files, some even use it for marketing purposes.
There were a few exceptions, Tom Watson MP had done his research and made a stand. Twitter exploded with thousands of Tweets pointing out errors, correcting statements, denouncing British Politics and generally groaning at the farce being played out before them. As the amendments to the Bill were withdrawn and votes inevitably went in favour, many planned the downfall of both major parties and lists appeared of MPs, who had failed to attend or had voted in favour and not contested.
It left me staring dumbly at my PC screen, thinking “what just happened?”. “Did you not here us?”. Of course they didn’t!
The important point being that just because we are on Twitter, and it can be a powerful tool. It will only have affect in that instance if who you are trying to affect can hear what you’re saying. This is applies just as much to MPs in the House of Commons as it does to our prospective customers. You must ensure your target audience can see your message, is using a particular channel or are even interested in what you have to say for it to make a mark.
Otherwise you are left shouting in an empty room.