TCTV: Live At SF vs SOPA, The Biggest Tech Protest In Decades

When you hear the words “San Francisco,” there’s a good chance that the word “protest” will also come to mind. Or, if you’re on a different wavelength, “Ron Conway.”

But today, the city’s favorite pasttime and its top angel investor came together at a special appearance in Civic Center Plaza to speak out against SOPA and PIPA, the two slimy “anti-piracy” bills currently worming their ways through Congress.

In a microcosm of the internet, the event featured a wide range of speakers sharing their various issues with the bills — the secret ways they were crafted, the draconian “rights” they would give copyright holders to shut down websites, etc. (Be sure to read up on our ongoing coverage of the topic, here.)

At first I thought I was witnessing the first real-life tech protest ever, as representatives from a wide range of entrepreneurial and information-freedom organizations got on stage to issue their denounciations.

But Conway set me straight, as you can see in my first ever TCTV video above. There was a previous one, he recalled, some 25 years ago in San Jose, that venture capitalist John Doerr had helped organize to around immigration.

The protest wasn’t big, especially by local standards. Having participated in anti-Iraq War protests in the same spot last decade, I can certainly say it didn’t match those.

Although maybe it’s getting more results.

There were maybe 200 people participating at any given time that I was there after noon today. But plenty more cameras, laptops and phones, with all sorts of citizen and professional media folks transmitting the words online to join the massive internet protests that have been taking place.

The most exciting part was the general feeling that the tech community, broadly speaking, needs to figure out how to take this energy and translate it into a firmer agenda around innovation. Not necessarily legislation, as politics doesn’t have all the answers for everything we’re doing. But something.

The two other people I interviewed at the event get into this topic more, Elizabeth Stark from Stanford and Alex Fowler, the privacy and public policy head at Mozilla.

Viva La Innovation!

Event organizers and speakers included people from SF New Tech, Hackers & Founders, 106 Miles, Designers and Geeks, Hacks & Hackers, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation among many others.