SOPA, PIPA, and the internet as advocacy.

Today marks a pretty awesome day in internet history.  All across the internet, sites are participating in a digital strike, blacking out their websites and giving congressional contact information — all about two related bills, SOPA and PIPA.  Even Wikipedia, the 5th largest website on the internet, is blacked out for 24 hours. Google, the largest page, features prominently SOPA with an advocacy page on start up.

A nice summary of why people are upset and what the issues are can be found here: http://blog.reddit.com/2012/01/technical-examination-of-sopa-and.html — it does a better job than I could.

This is primarily a big deal because it represents the true force of the internet.  I’ve been an advocate for a while — including on really high profile things like the DREAM act.  I’ve watched them come to a vote after months and years of pressure, only to fail. I’ve met with representatives and written them far more frequently. I’ve watch people I’ve elected turn on promises, conversations, and their own identity.  I see the country in a place which I cannot accept, nor feel can be changed by mere electoral process.  That’s one of the reasons I’m a protestor.  I think creative resistance is much more effective in creative change.  Occupy, among other things, helped reinforce this for me.

Today is a case in point.  I’m watch representatives who sponsored the bill (including our own from Nebraska, Lee Terry) drop support — instantly, today.

Well, almost.  SOPA didn’t come about just today.  There was a lot of perpetration, and the online communities I am part of have been at the heart of it.  There has already been a ton of pressure on the powers that helped to make these bills a possibility.  And there will continue to be after today. But the fact of the matter is SOPA went from the realm of internet tech-centric forums to public view in one day.  Something like 4% of all tweets are about SOPA right now — that’s something like 300000 tweets and hour.  That forced change in ways that well written letters can’t.  It forces an immanency.  It is nonviolent, novel, creative (in the sense of creating), and overwhelming.  In otherwords, it is a perfect form of protest.

The internet represents an amazing force for change.  Every new form of media has brought with it revolution.  The Arab Spring has been attributed in part to better information technology, and while I think the actual role it played in those revolutions is relatively negligible, it is clear by today’s events that the internet can be the primary impetus for social change.

Google, Wikipedia, Reddit  — and a massive group of smaller websites — helped make this visible.  Many millions of users made it work.

What is clear is that #j18 will remain a milestone in digital advocacy, and that the internet as a powerful force for change cannot be underestimated. Today represents a threshold for new possibilities, and powerful social change in our times.  Take a few minutes to click around today.  Something cool is happening.

Post by, Tim Nendick, RA in the community.

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