WASHINGTON — By just after noon Hawaii time on Wednesday, nearly 1,000 people had already contacted Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, all voicing opposition to legislation that’s aimed at fighting online piracy.
“This is by far the most constituent correspondence we have received on one issue since being in office,” Hanabusa spokeswoman Ashley Nagaoka told Civil Beat.
A pair of controversial measures in the House and Senate drew White House criticism over the weekend, and prompted Wikipedia and other websites to protest by going into “black out” mode on Wednesday.
Critics argue that the legislation would give the federal government too much control over the Internet.
The controversy over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) drove some of the bills’ cosponsors to withdraw their support on Wednesday. At least four members of Congress dismantled their websites to protest the legislation, as Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call first reported.
SOPA would criminalize unauthorized streaming of copyrighted materials online. Supporters of the bill — including some in the film and music industries — say it’s necessary to protect their livelihoods.
Opponents say the measure would change the fundamental openness of the Internet, and impede free speech. The bill would allow the federal government to “black list” websites, which critics say amounts to censorship.
Hanabusa told Civil Beat that she does not support SOPA — the House version of the bill — in its current form. But she also still believes in finding a legislative approach to prevent “counterfeiting on foreign websites.” The key is finding a solution that doesn’t lead to “the slippery slope of government intrusion,” she said.
As of 2 p.m. in Hawaii, Hanabusa had already received 742 emails, 161 phone calls, 77 messages via Twitter and 11 posts to Facebook.
She wasn’t alone.
When Sen. Daniel Akaka‘s Washington office opened on Wednesday morning, he already had 40 voicemails waiting — all in opposition to the bills.
“As of 1 p.m. (8 a.m. in Hawaii) our DC office had 50 calls from Hawaii zip codes, and in the second half of the day (when Hawaii is more awake) they had 190 calls against SOPA from Hawaii zip codes,” Akaka spokesman Jesse Broder Van Dyke told Civil Beat. “I only heard of one that supported SOPA, all the rest against.”
Broder Van Dyke said that Akaka’s Honolulu office also received dozens of calls on Wednesday.
Akaka’s office also received more than 800 emails on Wednesday — that’s compared to about 500 emails received over the previous 12 days.
The senator said he wants to protect intellectual property but supports finding a solution that “clearly protects against censorship” and encourages innovation and creativity online.
“I have heard from hundreds of Hawaii residents concerned that the current drafts of SOPA and PIPA could lead to censorship, and I share their concerns,” Akaka said in an email sent to Civil Beat. “Amendments to the Senate bill are currently under discussion and I intend to carefully review the proposed changes before casting votes next week.”
Here’s a sampling of some of the recent Twitter comments that were directed at Akaka:
Rep. Mazie Hirono‘s office said the congresswoman also received a “steady stream of calls from people expressing their concerns” about SOPA, but didn’t provide any numbers reflecting the volume of correspondence.
Hirono said she is still considering her constituents’ viewpoints on the matter so that she can decide how Congress can “strike the right balance.”
“Selling counterfeit products online — be it fake ‘name brand’ purses or a movie you don’t own — is a serious issue that should be addressed in a way that also balances the need to preserve an open, innovative internet,” Hirono said in an email sent to Civil Beat.
But she also pointed out that Congress has a responsibility to protect consumers and businesses.
“Like with other markets such as financial services, food, pharmaceuticals and other consumer goods,” Hirono said. “Congress’ responsibility is to make sure there are fair, transparent rules of the road that protect businesses and consumers alike.”
Sen. Daniel Inouye declined to respond to multiple requests for comment on the matter, but Twitter users sent a flood of message his way. Many urged him to articulate his position on the matter, and to vote against the legislation.