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This paper uses a new set of online research tools to develop a detailed study of the public debate over proposed legislation in the United States that was designed to give prosecutors and copyright holders new tools to pursue suspected online copyright violations. The study applies a mixed-methods approach by combining text and link analysis with human coding and informal interviews to map the evolution of the controversy over time and to analyze the mobilization, roles, and interactions of various actors.
This novel, data-driven perspective on the dynamics of the networked public sphere supports an optimistic view of the potential for networked democratic participation, and offers a view of a vibrant, diverse, and decentralized networked public sphere that exhibited broad participation, leveraged topical expertise, and focused public sentiment to shape national public policy.