Silicon Valley headed for political trouble?

Andrew Feinberg, Editor, Capitol Valley Media

Talking with Andrew Feinberg, editor of Capitol Valley Media, I was challenged several times about why I, other tech bloggers, and why Silicon Valley itself doesn’t get involved more in what’s happening in Washington D.C.

Politics and geeks rarely mix. Geeks want to build stuff. Politicians want to serve their constituencies and, often, that means regulating what the geeks are trying to do.

A child gets harmed due to meeting someone unsavory on MySpace or Facebook? Andrew sees regulation ahead and he says it doesn’t have to be that way, if Silicon Valley gets involved in politics.

Feinberg tells a nightmarish story where we lose access to an open Internet thanks to the corrupting influence of money from big companies like Comcast. Already companies like Comcast and Verizon are starting to put limits on how you can use the Internet from their services.

Why did that happen? Because we don’t care.

Andrew started down this path by watching what tech bloggers were reporting on. He very rarely saw us talk about politics. Most bloggers he meets, he tells me, don’t know who the FCC Chairman is. Or, have ever had a conversation with him or his staffs.

And bloggers here are just a reflection of the tech world itself. When we get together at BarCamps or FOOCamps we would rather talk about robotics, brain research, genetics, algorithms, or other geeky topics.

Politics? Ugh.

I’m planning a trip to Washington with Andrew to fill in my own gaps on these topics. Anyone want to come along? Probably will happen in June or July. Anyone want to help get us access to key decision makers?

There’s another guy who is changing my thinking on these topics and focusing my attention: Larry Lessig. It’s pretty clear that he’s going to run for Congress. His blog is a must-read, it’s an interesting look at politics from one of Silicon Valley’s leading thinkers.

But back to Andrew. He thinks there’s a ton of trouble coming, especially for social networking companies like Facebook because they simply aren’t focusing on defusing political pressure from concerns around privacy and security of our kids.

He also told me that he doesn’t see a single lobbying organization that speaks for the tech industry as a whole. Who is looking out for, say, Twitter or Facebook’s interests in Washington? Or, our interests? He doesn’t see anyone and he sees that we’re going to get screwed over the next few years as big companies are going to come after our ability to have access to a free and largely unregulated Internet.

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