House Resolution 3261, more commonly known as SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act, is garnering a great deal of attention lately, especially as major websites such as Wikipedia and Reddit are blacking out their services in protest of the controversial legislation.
For proponents of SOPA, this is a necessary regulatory action designed to halt the progress of copyright infringement while defending intellectual property from misappropriation on the Internet, especially from foreign domains. Opponents argue that the bill stifles first-amendment rights and, given current language, can shut down any website found to contain copyright violated material. Furthermore, opponents argue that this will stifle economic growth due to added legal difficulties placed on startups. SOPA’s ability to shutdown websites hosting copyright material is of serious concern to user-generated content sites and is therefore behind the motivation for Wikipedia’s and Reddit’s blackouts; they are illustrating the effect that exercising some of SOPA’s more controversial elements would have on websites found to be in violation of copyright infringement.
The internet is the last bastion of true free speech in my mind; most people use it to say exactly what they want about whatever they want however they want (read: as obnoxiously as they want). Love it or hate it, our lives are becoming increasingly dependent on it, and it is hard to support legislation that would disrupt its current landscape. Upon doing research into SOPA, I happened upon the website ProPublica.org, a public interest journalism website, and found some great data compiled on the subject. Specifically, reporter Dan Nguyen compiled a dataset on all congressmen and women who have taken an active stance for or against SOPA. He procured demographic data in addition to 2010 funding information from Entertainment companies (music/movies) and from Computer/Internet companies (you can find his article here). He argued that because these two industries will be affected most by this legislation, so he just focused on funding from those industries. Because I agree with ProPublica’s ethos, and I’m a huge Tableau fan, I took it upon myself to visualize this data in the way that only Tableau can.
The dashboard below shows a geographic breakdown of the number of supporters and opponents and an overall analysis of the data; it then examines the difference in 2010 campaign funding from Entertainment sources versus Computer and Internet based companies. Finally, the fourth pane shows an itemized list of each Congressman and the funding amounts received.
*The horizontal axis on the 2010 Campaign Funding difference corresponds to more Entertainment Industry funding if positive and more Computer/Tech Industry funding if negative.
Thanks to Tableau, you can notice some facts very quickly:
1) There are clearly more supporters of the bill than opponents.
2) Among all Congressmen, most have received close to the same amount of funding from both industries.
3) Those few outlying Congressmen whose campaign funding is skewed toward one industry mostly consist of Senators, many of which are high profile leaders, such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from Nevada and Charles Schumer from New York (both supporters of the bill)
4) It’s fair to say that, based on this data alone, that there appear to be no party based nor age based trends in who supports or opposes SOPA.
SOPA is an extremely important piece of legislation, and I hope that this information motivates you in some way to become more active in its development, whether you support it or not. Its implementation has far reaching consequences, and it is our collective responsibility to shape it appropriately.
Also, I want to give a big shout to the entire InterWorks BI team who helped make this viz possible. You all are undeniable rock stars!