Weekly Roundup: SOPA and the Art of the Online Protest

January 20th, 2012 12:57 PM


This originally appeared in Dowser.org.

Hearing the Different Voices on SOPA

People power is back.  Wednesday’s protests against the SOPA bill continue last year’s theme of the power of protest.  However, this time the protesters include corporate giants, like Google, which went “black” in support of a free Internet this week.  It wasn’t just the big sites that went down for the day — countless blogs, tumblr sites, and smaller companies also shut down on Wednesday.   # 

One blog visually captured what the Web looked like, courtesy of the SOPA protest:  Anothercaptured the power of the movement, comparing SOPA supporters in Congress on Tuesday, Jan 18 to Wednesday, Jan 19, as word spread across the web.  Clearly, the opposition for the bill was growing, and rapidly.

Because this movement was driven by people (as well as tech giants), here are some telling tweets from the week.

“The government is Sopa-thetic.”

Some pointed to what SOPA could actually do (and did):

“Anybody who thought the freak out over sopa and pipa was silly should look at what happened to Megaupload and their staff today. So scary.”

And some got quite creative:


┃╭━┛┃╭╮┃┃┏╮┃┃╭╮┃ ▇▇▇▇▇▇▇▇▇▇▇▇▇▇▇▇ #Megaupload”
All in all, Mashable reported that there were 2.4 million tweets on SOPA.  And even though Wikipedia shut down for the day, some analytics say that it had even higher traffic during the SOPA protest. So, what did all this result in? Wired reports that even though more legislators are considering revisions and some are switching sides (by opposing the bill now), the results are still a bit wishy-washy: few legislators are explicitly stating what they object to in the bill and how they would amend it. # 

And despite the backlash, one of the most popular mixed media content sites, MEGAUPLOAD was shut down this week.  The Guardian writes that the site broke copyright laws (with estimates up to $500 million worth).  The content sharing site, however, had a staggering 4% of all Internet traffic amounting to 50 million visitors every day.  So, does this mean that more sites are under threat?To fight that possibility, Google collected 7 million signatures from Americans during the day-long protest, according to the Washington Post.

Not only did so many people sign the petition, but millions actually looked up their representatives to share their views, according to Wikimedia Foundation: “Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that shut the English language version of its website for 24 hours to protest the bills, said more than 162 million people saw the blackout page posted yesterday. More than 8 million U.S. readers looked up their elected representatives through the blackout page to protest the measures, the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation Inc., which runs the Wikipedia site, said in a statement today.”

Boston Globe called it “grass roots activism” but also “lobbying 2.0,” suggesting that the intentions of the Silicon Valley giants are not completely selfless.  Rather, the Globe said that these firms should be just as imaginative in their fight against piracy as they have been in the SOPA protest: “It’s just as easy to be self-righteous in a hoodie as a Brooks Brothers suit. Internet firms should use as much of their ingenuity to combat piracy as they have to thwarting SOPA.”

On a more positive note, a young Huff Post blogger wrote that movements like the fight against SOPA arouse a sense of activism and responsibility in a largely indifferent youth, something desperately needed as we enter another presidential election:

“Therefore, it seems as if SOPA and PIPA have saved my generation. However, if we do not act, we might find ourselves drowning under the waters of disinterest once again.”

But for concrete details on what the backlash against SOPA will bring, we will have to wait and see lawmakers reassess the bill.

Worthwhile Weekend Reads:

  • Under 30 achievers building a new community of global leaders, tacking pressing issues (and excelling!) by Jonathan Kalan on Huff Post.
  • After last year’s Occupy Wall Street protests, Nicholas Kristof asks is banking, generally, is bad.
  • How can we make science more democratic and open? NYTimes explores a field that needs a little sprucing.
  • Future economies will smaller, decentralized, localized, and more chaotic but more equal?  NextBillion blog reflects.

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