#debill v #ge2010
For the last day, the general election has been taking a back seat - in social media terms - to the Digital Economy Bill.
As the controversial bill was completing its passage through the Commons last night (you can watch it here), there were thousands of tweets monitoring the debate - and not a little fury when the bill got through, with 189 voting in favour, and 47 against. Here's how they voted.
Even MPs were adding to the running commentary. Labour's Tom Watson, a former minister close to Gordon Brown, was rebelling: "First time I've ever broken the whip in the chamber. I feel physically sick." He and the Liberal Democrats who opposed the bill won praise from campaigners and critics - along with promises that there would be an effect at the ballot box, with rebels rewarded and supporters punished. We shall see whether the digital crowd makes a difference.
In the heat of battle last night, there was some confusion as to which parts of the bill actually made it through. There was victory for the photographers who had claimed that clause 43 in the bill, relating to so-called "orphan works", would end up handing over their picture rights to giant media firms; that was dropped.
At first, it seemed that an even more controversial clause had gone - one allowing the blocking of websites which host copyrighted material without permission. Later, it emerged that the clause had been amended so that there will have to be further Parliamentary scrutiny before any blocking takes place. This morning, opponents were still claiming that it could allow the blocking of resources such as Wikileaks, which hosts material like the recent video of US troops firing on Iraqi civilians.
But the clauses which caused the most anger from campaigners like the Open Rights Group survived the horse-trading. That means we will now get those "technical measures" allowing Ofcom to impose speed brakes or suspend the internet connections of those who repeatedly share files illegally. The government insists this will only happen if offenders ignore repeated warnings - and is stressing that it's only aimed at the most serious offenders. The opponents claim millions could be cut off.
And a "concession" - which didn't convince the Labour rebels - was a consultation process with MPs and peers. The government calls this a "super-affirmative procedure" but the bill's critics say ministers would still be able to make MPs toe the party line and force any new proposals through Parliament.
Combing through Twitter, I found only one apparent supporter of the bill: "Am I missing something regarding the #debill, or are people complaining that they might get punished for breaking the law?"
Thousands more were repeating "I choose not to recognise the UK's Digital Economy Bill", as if that might make it go away.
In 24 hours, the hashtag #debill appeared 14,400 times on Twitter, as compared to 1,470 tweets using the election hashtag #ge2010. So, does that mean the mainstream media, with its concentration on campaign news, is ignoring the really big story? Or is this a particularly well-focussed campaign by a relatively small group of activists?