Information operations

Anatomy of a Failed Information Campaign via Cyber et al

Cover of "Times They Are A-Changin"
Cover of Times They Are A-Changin

Techdirt recently did a piece on how SOPA and PIPA were defeated, despite their ‘owning’ the major media. Good article, but it didn’t go far enough.

Congress sometimes works in strange and mysterious ways, and sometimes their methodology is straight forward and simple.  But, as the old Bob Dylan song goes: “The Times they are a-changing“.  U.S. Representative Lamar S. Smith (R-TX) wrote the Stop Online Privacy Act or SOPA. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) was the primary author of Protect Intellectual Property Act or PIPA.  Both bills were introduced and were being considered for a vote. So far, so simple. Both bills seemed to be riddled with language from www.Don’t get (thanks to Kevin Coleman).  Neither author seemed to understand the ramifications or implications of their bills and the widespread, nor rippling global effects resulting.

In order for both authors to write this bill there is usually an outcry (an impassioned plea for action) from either constituents, constituent business(es) or from political supporters of their political campaign, in this case RIAA and MPAA. The Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America are both very wealthy associations, funded by the recording industry (AKA music and record labels) and movies (AKA Hollywood).  Both these industries are sensitive to American and global audiences driving demand for music and movies/videos. What they have both been struggling with for the past two decades is how to maximize profits for their stakeholders on the internet. Simply stated, their tactics has been to use encryption/decryption technology to not allow digital copying, precluding piracy.

Technology, however, works faster than the RIAA and MPAA.  Before anti-piracy technology be implemented, often new technology would be developed, written and released, which made the anti-piracy technique obsolete.  The MPAA and RIAA also struggled with how the copied movies and music were distributed, the latest technique for file sharing uses Torrents.

But as those who relish music and videos have noticed, these industries are out of touch with their customers.  Dissatisfaction with unimaginative ‘corporate’ artists has prompted a rise in independent artists, who freely share their music and videos. The idea is to create a following and then earn an income via conventional means, such as iTunes (which is certainly not conventional DVD or CD sales).

But the greatest dissatisfaction for the two bills was where they would block ‘offending’ websites.  This wreaked of Big Brother, limiting freedom of speech akin to that of the Great Firewall of China and stunk of overbearing tactics.

Both the RIAA and MPAA are out of touch with their customers.  As any sales and marketing professional knows, this spells death for an industry.  Therefore Hollywood mislead Representative Smith and Senator Leahy as to the breadth and depth of consumer dissatisfaction because, frankly, they also do not seem to understand.  Both Congressmen also grossly miscalculated the state of angst and the tendency to protest via social media, with the additional use of phones, faxes and other older means of communications. SOPA and PIPA were defeated in their original form.

Gentlemen, Representative Smith and Senator Leahy, your first mistake was not knowing the ‘American State of the Internet’. In tonight’s State of the Union address, our President will speak to the American people about the current status of various issues.  What he will not address is how much the American leadership is out of touch with the American public.  Therefore, all information campaigns will fail without proper understanding of your customer, your clients or your constituents.  Your first step must be to do a comprehensive Target Audience Analysis, such as that proposed by Dr. Lee Rowland and Commander Steve Tatham, “Strategic Communication and Inf luence Operations: Do We Really Get ‘It’?Small Wars Journal, August 3, 2010.  This should be an ongoing process, as the human terrain of the American public is constantly changing.

Gentlemen, we understand you are fighting music and video piracy.  Take your time, do it right, but before you attempt to pass any legislation in this area, understand your audience. Then try to understand the technology.