On Wednesday, we witnessed an unprecedented collaboration on the Internet as people throughout the country contributed in their own way to the SOPA and PIPA protest. People contributed through blacking out websites, tweeting or posting links and calls to action on Facebook, signing petitions and setting up tools online to easily call Congress – a whole country sent an unmistakable and nearly unanimous message to the Hill.
Ironically, while this is the biggest online protest in history, it is also the type of action that the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Senate’s PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) would restrict. These two bills claim they would stop piracy and would implement harsher penalties on companies or individuals violating copyright laws online, but in effect, the outcome would put legitimate websites at risk with its vague use of language. If these bills pass, user-generated websites, the most well known being Facebook, Twitter and Wikipedia, would have to monitor everything going through their sites, risking being shut down if something slips through the cracks.
But because we have the freedom we do, those who use the Internet everyday, who maintain the sites we all rely on (how many times do you read Wikipedia a day? Be honest), who are responsible for cultivating the inner webs, ran an innovative, groundbreaking, and most importantly, successful protest.
Our lives revolve around the Internet, our phones and any other way we can find to digitally connect. So while people may criticize all the work being done behind a computer and deem it passive, yesterday’s example is living proof that an online movement inspired millions of people to take action and make sure their voice was heard. We are becoming a more interactive society and the Internet is a main supporting force in that, encouraging people to become involved and engaged.
This protest was yet another turning point for using the Internet to drive offline action. Seattle Against SOPA took the time to write, record and produce a video in opposition to the bills by covering Don Mclean’s “American Pie.” This offline action then came full circle as it became viral online and was a solid example of how, if SOPA and PIPA were passed, we would no longer have the ability to express our opinions and messages through creative means. It is work like this that the legislation could go after and those who produced this video could find themselves in jail for up to five years.
The protest was truly a team effort. The Revolution joined the strike by blacking out our website and urging people to call Congress in opposition of PIPA.
(There’s still time! Call 866-279-7472 to tell your senator to oppose PIPA!)
Along with Revolution Messaging, other big names that participated included Wikipedia, Reddit, Mozilla, and even Congressmen and women, such as Representative Anna Eshoo, a California Democrat. The reaction was exceptional; Google alone saw over 4 million people sign their petition by 3pm on Wednesday.
The worldwide blackout is beginning to see success as co-sponsors of both SOPA and PIPA begin to “drop like flies.” Wednesday’s victory included a total of 18 senators coming out in opposition to PIPA, including 7 former co-sponsors dropping off.
These two bills are losing support from both the left and right, each acknowledging the threat it poses: removing our right to freedom of speech. The power of the Internet and online organizingcame together for a successful campaign, and the potential for censoring our online activity is slowly eroding.
Post Secret put it best: Under SOPA, you could get 5 years for uploading a Michael Jackson song, one year more than the doctor who killed him.