Avaaz has become so influential that they were involved in disseminating propaganda with the proxy war in Syria. In fact, Avaaz has been supportive of the manufactured uprising in Syria that has made the Free Syrian Army (FSA) so successful.
But does such a site exist for lobbying?
“Absolutely,” says Marci Harris, CEO and co-founder of POPVOX, a site committed to “solving the problem of communication with Congress.”
POPVOX – derived from the Latin phrase vox populi, or “voice of the people” – provides an online venue for citizens to voice their opinions to Congress. As an alternative to constituent letters and phone calls, which today do little more than exasperate congressional offices and occupy their interns, POPVOX aims to become the standard tool by which congressmen “measure the pulse of their district.”
Though this may be worrisome for lobbyists, Harris is quick to temper the implication that they would be usurped by her site. “There is a sea change,” said Harris in a November Washington Post article, “[but] it doesn't mean professional lobbyists are obsolete. It’s about a different kind of public involvement in policy-making that technology makes possible.”
LobbyBlog recently caught up with Harris to ask a few questions…
LobbyBlog (LB): The [Post] article mentions how the 2011 Mobile Informational Call Act was halted by activists who opposed the measure through POPVOX. Have there been similar cases since?
POPVOX CEO Marci Harris (MH): The Mobile Informational Call Act was one of the more clear-cut cases. I think the real story is less about POPVOX being the sole reason for a particular effect, but rather the activity on POPVOX serving as a transparent proxy for the overall advocacy on an issue. Some other examples are:
- The Research Works Act, which was similarly laid aside. The advocacy on POPVOX mirrored what was taking place on several platforms (on POPVOX, 5% supported, 95% opposed).
- POPVOX provided early warning on opposition to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (which failed to pass the Senate).
- Advocacy on the Resolution expressing regret for the Chinese Exclusion Act was focused on POPVOX and now advocates are using the comments shared though the platform as a guide to studying the bill's history and eventual passage.
You can even look at the 15,000+ people who sent a message to Congress on The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). While there were countless ways that people contacted Congress on that issue, no other platform allowed you to see comments for and against, and how they broke down by Congressional district. Certainly no other platform allowed that data to be compared and contrasted with advocacy for other bills to see how it stacked up. That information will be archived once this Congress ends, and can be referenced by academics or the media for years to come as we finally have the data to study advocacy patterns (and maybe even the actual effect of that advocacy on outcomes).
For bills that are pending at the moment, I would point to the sentiment coming in on both the how to get your ex back