If you were surfing the World Wide Web on Wednesday, you probably noticed that many of your favorite websites were blacked out. You certainly noticed Google’s logo being covered. You may have see that Wikipedia was unaccessible in the English language. You could have even been humored when you saw your favorite blogs, Facebook friends, or Twitter followers with censored images. This was all a way to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act, an American government initiative that would fight against piracy in a brutal way, keeping much user generated content and freedom of speech from making it online without some harsh penalties. So what exactly did these online blackouts achieve? Was the virtual SOPA protest successful?
- Representatives withdrew support: People who were once very vocal about backing SOPA found themselves bombarded with phone calls, e-mails, tweets, and Facebook posts to change their mind about the bill. Senators from Florida, Texas, and South Carolina took to social media to alert the people they represent that they now oppose SOPA as well as PIPA, the Protect I.P. Act.
- Citizens gained knowledge: SOPA and PIPA aren’t new bills; they’ve been around for months but have recently been gaining momentum. The blackout informed an astounding amount of people about the bills that may have passed if they remained uninformed. Many sites that were blacked out gave brief information on how the Internet would change if the bills passed, petitions to sign and send to their representatives, and other ways to help, including contact information for their local senators and congresspeople.
- Showed camaraderie: One thing that made me proud about the mass blackout on the Internet was that it showed camaraderie between big businesses, blogs, and Internet lovers alike. Is piracy a big deal? Certainly. But the bills in question would change the Internet for the worst in many people’s eyes. Instead of sitting around and letting the bill go by without saying a word, people stood up for what they believed in, supported one another, and made their voice heard loud and clear. We truly showed power in numbers.
- Proved the power of new media: It was only about a decade ago when the majority of people received their news from traditional media outlets like the television, newspapers and magazines. Now, we have a combination of social networks, smart phones, and websites that provide us with instant news and updates. Information truly spreads like wildfire, breaking records regularly. We’re living in the days where we find out about the death of a public enemy before the president formally announces it. Compare how many times you’ve heard about SOPA on the news and how many times you read about PIPA in the newspaper to how many times you’ve seen it mentioned on Facebook, Twitter, and blogs.
- Increased (or decreased) productivity: While some sites simply had censored images, a black background, or a 503 page to show their support, others like Wikipedia and Reddit were completely shut down. This increased productivity in some cases (what’s there to do when Reddit is offline) or decreased productivity (for the college students who have research papers to write and no Wikipedia to depend on). It allowed people to really take a look back and think about how the Internet really would change if the bills passed. You’d need to find other ways to entertain yourself or educate yourself. We’d somehow be going backwards in history, relying on things some people have completely given up on, like libraries and board games (although some of us still use these things).
How did you participate in the SOPA/PIPA? Did you know about the movement before the blackout?