Reddit users, buoyed by its part in the damage done to GoDaddy over its support for SOPA, have decided to make an example of Paul Ryan (R-WI) for his support of the anti-piracy / rogue web sites bills in the Senate and the House. A sub-Reddit called "OperationPullRyan" has been created and users are throwing their support behind Wisconsin Democrat Rob Zerban, who will try to take Paul out in 2012.
Zerban has his work cut out for him because Ryan has a 54 percent approval rating among his constituents. He also has his work cut out for him because Ryan does not support SOPA or Protect IP – nor has he sponsored any bills. In fact, he has never taken any money from special interest groups that are pushing for the bills either. A representative for Ryan contacted BetaBeat to ask them for a correction on a story it ran yesterday about Reddit users targeting him for supporting SOPA.
“I’m unclear on how you could derive Rep. Ryan supports SOPA from the letter you link to in the post,” spokesman Kevin Seifert wrote, referring to this letter Ryan’s office sent to a constituent who wrote to him about the Stop Online Piracy Act. Ryan never says in the letter that he supports SOPA, saying instead that he will watch the bill's progress and keep his constituent’s opinions in mind.
A later statement from Ryan and his spokesman, Seifert, states for the record his opinions on SOPA:
"Contrary to false reports, Congressman Paul Ryan is not a co-sponsor of H.R 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act. He remains committed to advancing policies which protect free speech and foster innovation online and will continue to follow the House Judiciary Committee’s deliberations on this issue carefully."
The community began courting Zerban by inviting him to what they call an "Ask Me Anything" thread. He did so, answering questions about everything from his positions on wars and the legalization of marijuana, to his opinions on SOPA and whether he has any cats. He's a dog person, for the record.
Here's what he had to say about SOPA:
"SOPA is a complex issue but here is how I approach it- the first thing to remember is that our free speech is our most fundamental right as Americans and this is critical to our society and economy. It is also critical to innovation and this process of free speech, which we are doing right now on Reddit, is what enables us to share and develop the ideas that impact the world.
We need to preserve the free nature of the internet. I believe that more and more people are going to pay for content they enjoy to be able to use on many devices and in different formats, and the benefit to a company of brand growth, new fans, and advertising, can be a great benefit. Companies need to start thinking outside of the box and leveraging the exposure to greater benefit.
There are many online companies that oppose SOPA including Google, Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, eBay, Mozilla, Yahoo, AOL, and LinkedIn. These companies wrote a letter to key members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, saying SOPA poses “a serious risk to our industry’s continued track record of innovation and job creation, as well as to our nation’s cybersecurity.” I think where it goes too far is that it allows unilateral measures to revoke IP addresses or domain names. In short, I recognize the need for content providers to be able to profit and benefit from their work but there needs to be a middle ground approach to this issue."
Reddit users face an uphill battle in unseating a popular and young member of the Senate who many believe will be a future candidate for the presidency. Still, polls indicate that Zerban has a chance, and the election is less than a year away so anything is possible. Reddit users certainly have the power to change public opinion by driving the news cycle with fund raising and good old fashioned muck-raking. But they may want to change the reasons why they oppose Ryan, because he clearly is not a sponsor or supporter of SOPA.