Following a police raid on the hosting facility PRQ that coincided with technical problems at the iconic The Pirate Bay, the Swedish Pirate Party is surging in member and activist count.
The day before yesterday, the colocation facility PRQ was raided, as reported by TorrentFreak and others. PRQ is known for hosting those who fight for freedom of expression to a level where it can get commercially inconvenient, but still is very protected by the principles of freedom of speech. PRQ hosts a number of smaller, indie torrent search indexes that are still quite large in their own right – though nowhere as large as The Pirate Bay, which had simultaneous downtime.
The arguably largest of the indie search indexes, tankafetast.com, decided to redirect their entire domain to the Swedish Pirate Party’s Facebook page in protest against the raid. The result tells everyone and anyone that file-sharing is very, very far from gone and replaced with Spotify-style streaming. It also gives a very interesting insight into demographics.
Being nerds and geeks at heart, pirates love numbers and visualizations. Therefore, the Swedish Pirate Party presents a lot of real-time data regarding its membership statistics (in comparison with other parties, that only state their member count at end-of-year – and take until March or so to compute it).
We observe, that while the Swedish PP has been hovering at about 7,600 members for the past year, it has now received 1,000 new members in 24 hours:
The X-axis here is the date of month, so the chart stretches from September 3 to October 3, but plots are realtime as those days progress – you can see how the member count takes off and goes vertical on October 2, slows down slightly as the Swedish night approaches, then takes off again in the morning of October 3 (rightmost part of the graph). Based on the visual appearance of these graphs, surge events like this are fondly referred to as verticalities – it looks like the chart pilot just pulled the stick all the way backward and went vertical on afterburner.
The Facebook page itself also has a ton of new likes and subscribers, obviously, and posts there are getting shared far and wide – getting the kind of visibility an article on this blog doesn’t get even if it tops Reddit’s front page for a full day. The numbers are going nuclear, as is typical for a verticality.
Events like this have happened twice before, and although they were far more pronounced, they exhibited the same general signs. Those times, the membership count tripled in a week: the first time from 2,200 to 6,600, and the second time from 14,000 to 42,000. The first verticality was at the raid on The Pirate Bay on May 31, 2006, and the second was at the District Court’s verdict against the accused operators of The Pirate Bay on April 17, 2009.
(Following that, the Swedish Pirate Party got 225,915 votes in the European Elections on June 7, 2009, and two out of Sweden’s 20 seats – as predicted when founding the party, we were capable of 225k votes, and therefore, seats.)
But this recent data also tells us a lot about demographics. The copyright industry has long claimed that the people who are sharing knowledge and culture today are those who learned to share when they were teenagers, that these people are now in their late 30s or early 40s, and that teenagers today are not a “problem” in this regard. Hard data tells us that this claim is anything but the truth, as we observe the people who arrived at the Pirate Party and chose to sign up:
The X-axis is year of birth, upward bars are new recruitments, downward are members who drop out. We see here that while the recruitment of people born in the 1970s may be significant in absolute numbers, the habit and culture of sharing – as well as the will to defend it – only increases the younger people get, and increases sharply at that. The new recruitment peaks with those born in 1996. This birth year is no coincidence for a political party, actually: they’re completely aware that they’ll be 18 and voting in the next Swedish elections in 2014. (Those who are so young they can’t vote until the 2018 elections typically don’t sign up for a political party just yet, but it’s observable from the Facebook page statistics that the next four-year-wave of activists eclipse even the current round of first-time-voters.)
We can also observe that sharing of culture and knowledge continues to be a male-dominated activity, even though this has started to slowly even out.
So, the conclusions from this news event are, that when people’s ability to share culture and knowledge is actually prevented (rather than just talking about it from a political ivory tower), those people go political – and fast. We can also observe that there is no sign whatsoever of the younger people having different habits of sharing than the first wave of sharers who are now in their 40s – to the contrary, the phenomenon of sharing (and the will to fight for it) only keeps growing.
And just as this article gets published, The Pirate Bay has returned on line.