No evidence shows that Netflix’s SuperPac ‘FLIXPAC’ is pro-SOPA
By Madison Ruppert
Editor of End the Lie
Multiple news outlets (including Politico, RT, and Raw Story) have erroneously been reporting that Netflix created a SuperPAC “whose main goal,” according to RT, “is to promote SOPA [Stop Online Piracy Act]-like legislation” while Raw Story baselessly reported that “subscriptions dollars are now going to a company that appears poised to become a prominent advocate of widely opposed limits to Internet freedom.”
Raw Story’s article on the subject spends most of the time not even dealing with Netflix and their SuperPAC, and how they come to the conclusion that they will be using subscriber funds to push anti-Internet freedom legislation is beyond me.
In fact, the author of the piece, Stephen C. Webster, who just happens to be Raw Story’s senior editor, doesn’t even bother to attempt to back it up, instead just hoping that readers will take his word for it.
One of the few (with a large emphasis on few) bits of evidence that hint at a potential pro-SOPA stance at FLIXPAC is the position of Netflix’s chief executive officer Reed Hastings.
According to the New York Post, Hastings was an early supporter but eventually backed away from the legislation.
Last time I checked, it was not a crime, or even suspicious or questionable, to distance oneself from something after learning more about it.
If Hastings and the staff at Netflix was not completely aware of what was in SOPA or how it would work, it is completely understandable that they might support it at first then later pull their backing once they realized what it involved.
Instead of taking a public stance against SOPA and similar legislation (which I personally think they should), Netflix has opted to stay neutral.
Personally, I think it makes a lot more sense – from a purely logical and strategic perspective – for Netflix to funnel money into legislative issues that more directly affect their bottom line.
Such issues might be net neutrality, billing based on bandwidth usage (which would hurt customers using their online streaming service) and the related issue of bandwidth caps, etc. all of which directly affect their customers and thus their profits.
It seems only logical that they would put as much money as possible into these areas, and considering the huge amount of money backing SOPA-style legislation with some of the nation’s largest lobbies like the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) continuing to push for similar bills, the level of money Netflix has put up seems tiny in comparison.
Not to mention the fact that there is actually no evidence showing that they are supporting SOPA-style bills other than pure speculation.
Indeed Netflix has been spending more every year in their lobbying efforts. In 2009 they spent $20,000, in 2010 they spent $130,000 and in 2011 $500,000.
Politico attempted (and, in my opinion, failed) to connect this to SOPA and similar bills by pointing out that the half million spent in 2011 occurred “as legislative debates over the Stop Online Piracy Act, Protect IP Act and Video Privacy Protection Act raged.”
However, as anyone who has taken a science class knows, correlation does not equal causation, so attempting to say “they spent money during a time when legislation was discussed means they spent money on trying to influence said legislation,” is laughably fallacious.
TechDirt is a little harsh in dealing with RT’s reporting on the issue, because it appears that whoever wrote the article for RT was just essentially reporting the same as Raw Story, albeit with a bit more explanation.
It is also worth noting that Netflix said on their official Twitter account, “PAC was NOT set up to support SOPA/PIPA: Netflix: Stories about our new PAC and SOPA are not true.”
In an official statement, they also said, “PACs are commonplace for companies that lead a big, growing market and Netflix is no exception. Our PAC is a way for our employees to support candidates that understand our business and technology. It was not set up for the purpose of supporting SOPA or PIPA. Instead, Netflix has engaged on other issues including network neutrality, bandwidth caps, usage based billing and reforming the Video Privacy Protection Act.”
Personally, I would prefer that all corporations get out of government and stop using any money to influence policy. I am wholly opposed to having corporations exert influence on the political process no matter what the issue, but running out and demonizing Netflix before we know all the facts and have evidence to back up our conclusions is irresponsible.
I have the Netflix “Watch Instantly” subscription myself and I see it as a great model for the future in terms of changing the entertainment industry’s business model while still making sure that there is money to be made for those who create the content.
However, if they indeed start supporting SOPA-style legislation with their FLIXPAC, I’ll have absolutely no problem dropping my subscription and encouraging others to do the same.
Until that time, I encourage people to demand evidence and come to their own conclusions. If anyone can actually substantiate the claim that they are going to pour money into SOPA-style efforts please contact me immediately so I can amend this article.
I’d love to hear your opinion, take a look at your story tips, and even your original writing if you would like to get it published. Please email me at [email protected]