By now, surely you have read and/or heard plenty about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). These two bills were heading through the U.S. House and Senate (respectively) and seemed destined for passage as recently as last week, with the first votes coming up next week.
Also, as you probably know, a shutdown of Wikipedia, Reddit, and other popular websites (as well as a host of other “In Solidarity” messages on homepages across the web) managed to galvanize support against the bills that has never been seen before. In a single day, Google.com collected over 7 million signatures on an online petition. Rather than the English-version of the website, Wikipedia redirected you to a list of your Congressional representatives and senators so you could either phone or e-mail them (I sent e-mails to all of mine; heard back from two of them, so far).
I don’t want to belabor how bad the bills are (or now were). They were pretty bad. They were so vague as to allow for entire websites to be brought down, or at least to make it so cost-ineffective to host any interaction with users and consumers (for fear of copyrighted material being posted) that an entire industry of user-generated content would die. I highly suggest you watch the video above if you want to understand the issue fully. If you’re an internet user in any capacity, it’s an important 13 minutes for you to spend.
Mostly, I wanted to address how ridiculously cool it was to see the entire internet united, even if for only one day. For that 24 hr period, this is all anyone was talking about across social networking. For that 24 hr period, people were engaged in the politics of what was going on with an issue that applied to them directly. For that 24 hr period, it didn’t matter if you were a Democrat or a Republican posting on some message board: both political parties supported the bills, and both party’s voters were against it.
We’ve seen something like this before, in the form of the Arab Spring nearly a year ago, where social networking and the internet helped spawn a revolution across the Arab world, in multiple countries, casting down dictators long thought to be invincible by their people. Their citizens got organized, coalesced behind a belief that they could make a difference in their lives, and decided to take action. And in some small way, the internet did the same thing for the people of the United States this week.
And I just think that’s kinda cool.