Leadership

Open Source: Internet Association Website Connects Users, Policymakers

By / Jul 19, 2013 The Internet Association's Take Action center allows users to mark up legislation.

Advocacy is in the hands of the user on the Internet Association’s new website, where the global web community can connect with policymakers and mark up legislation that could affect the internet.

The Internet Association’s (IA) new web presence that rolled out this week gives internet users and members of the association an opportunity to put their grassroots advocacy efforts in sixth gear. Features like the Take Action center allow website visitors to engage with members of Congress through social media, email, or elected officials’ websites.

“The basic idea of the website was to have something that really speaks to internet users and demystifies the political and legislative process,” said Mike Beckerman, president and CEO of IA. “We did user surveys, and we worked over the course of six or nine months developing something that would be a response to user needs but also be beneficial to policymakers—they can see responses from their constituents about what they think about specific legislation.”

The website also helps users craft the right message to their elected officials. A short snippet, which can be copy and pasted into a tweet or email, currently reads, “Congressman, will you help protect Internet freedom?” and includes a link to the IA website.

“That text is something that we’re going to update and change from time to time based on whatever issues are relevant,” said Beckerman. “Obviously, everybody can put in their own message, but we’re going to be able to fill that area with direct advocacy based on what’s happening.”

Another unique feature of the Take Action center allows users to view proposed legislation and actually leave comments and edits on the document.

“This is a project that we collaborated on with Project Madison,” said Nika Nour, digital director at IA. “The goal here is to get feedback and engage with individuals line by line.”

The level of comments will vary from simple “I support (or don’t support) this bill,” to constructive criticism based on the background of the user and how well they know the content or how passionate they are about it, Beckerman said. “They can then pass their comments on to their member of Congress, or we can take them and compile them, and maybe some of those suggestions are things that we can raise to make changes or have bills amended throughout the process.”

In the end, it’s about engaging users and helping them bolster their voice, Beckerman said.

“Anybody that uses the internet and who desires a free and open internet is going to want to engage in and care about these issues,” he said. “We’re just helping to educate users about what’s going on, what issues are going to impact them and their experience online, and how do they best interact with their elected officials.”

Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. More »

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