Tag Archives: SOPA protest

Internet protests–exercising the power

Many of the largest internet website leaders have joined in the protest against SOPA/PIPA in an effort to stop Congress from implementing new laws aimed at protecting intellectual property.

Poynter has gathered up the “blackout” pages of many of these sites and you can see them here.

Regardless of where you stand on this issue–and it is more complicated than either side is willing to admit–today marks one of the more significant days in the young but world-changing history of the internet.

We saw the power of the internet in the “Arab spring.” Yet, it wasn’t the internet doing it, it was people of like mind, at least on the issue of a common enemy, using the power of the internet to focus energy. Now we see it energizing people, millions perhaps, to get involved and express and opinion on an important political issue. It is not “the internet,” of course, it is people, but these are the people who when combined together to a considerable degree control the internet. This is a whole new power base and we are seeing a struggle for power going on on a pretty historic scale. These people, the folks behind Google, Wikipedia, WordPress, Firefox, Reddit and so many others are demonstrating today that if they band together they can largely shut down our lives. (Amazon is taking a little softer line.)

It may be a strange thing to contemplate, but what if the Congress, realizing that what is playing out here is a demonstration of where power really lies, moves ahead simply to demonstrate they are still running the country? There’s almost a sense of that in Majority Leader Reid’s strategy of moving toward the quick vote on PIPA.

Perhaps our leaders need to learn what Tunisia’s, Egypt’s, Libya’s and other Arab leaders needed to learn as well. No matter how powerful you think you are, no matter how big of an army you control, the power still resides in the people. Thank God for that. But the internet leaders who have banded together for this unprecedented global protest also need to be reminded that their power, as flexed as it may be right now, is limited as well. First, by the willingness of people to grant that, and second by the dictum of Lord Acton that power corrupts.


SOPA is dead, PIPA still alive and Wikipedia goes dark Wednesday

If you rely on Wikipedia (not sure I could live without it), it will be dark Wednesday. This unusual action is a protest against two bills that were under consideration in Congress: SOPA and PIPA. However, I just found out that SOPA is dead as of earlier today. PIPA (Protect IP Act) is the Senate’s version of the Stop Online Piracy Act as SOPA was called. (don’t you just love the names of legislation–so carefully crafted to be beyond argument or disagreement).

The storm of protest these proposed measures caused demonstrated the power inherent in this communication network we call the internet to influence our laws and future. There is a value system and an ethical platform that underlies this network and while far from homogeneous it is something that can be described and even felt. Any legislator, like any company leader, not fully understanding this value system runs the risk of serious damage. GoDaddy, one of the internet’s largest domain registry sites, lost 100,000 domain names in about 10 days because the CEO rather thoughtlessly backed SOPA, then changed his mind after he saw the damage. He should have learned more from his elephant hunting escapade.

Note to legislators–I understand that you are concerned, rightly so, about protecting IP. But, before cooking up more legislation along the lines of SOPA and PIPA I suggest two things: be aware of unintended consequences and how much damage you could do without even realizing it and 2) consult with the internet technorati and engage them in a solution that will help solve the problem and gain their support. If you don’t you may find “The Internet” will not want to see you re-elected.