January 18th — the day that modern field hockey became a sport. Rapper DJ Quik was born. Seven-year-old Leo II succeeds his maternal grandfather Leo I as the Byzantine emperor.
And now, it is the day that will forever live in the hearts of many millennials and tech-savvy crowds everywhere.
For those of you living under a rock (sorry, Geico Caveman), January 18, 2012 was the largest online protest in history. In other words, Internet users banded together against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA). The goal was to show the world the potential consequences that would result if the bills passed. Below is a comprehensive video that explains why users were against SOPA and PIPA:
“In short, Protect IP won’t stop online piracy, but it will introduce vast potential for censorship and abuse while making the web less safe and less reliable”
And then, something incredible happened.
It started with the whiny complaints that fogged up my newsfeed with “Why is the Google logo all black? How am I supposed to write my research paper without Wikipedia?” and it evolved into knowledge.
The most-used sites on the Internet like Google, Wikipedia, Reddit, and even WordPress (which I use to write my own blog posts) “blacked-out” their websites, and encouraged visitors to educate themselves on the issue. Almost 1,000,000,000 people were blocked from websites. Before the West Coast work day ended, over 2,200,000 people had tweeted about #SOPA, and over 10,000,000 signatures filled a petition to against the bills. Those are some incredible numbers.
From my own observations, I saw first-hand that those who were initially confused about the issues surrounding SOPA and PIPA shifted from complaining to action. Profile pictures were changed to say “STOP SOPA”, and people tweeted their own form of “black-out” messages, or encouraged others to become involved.
On January 20th, two days after the Internet blackout, Congressed shelved the bills indefinitely.
Recently in my Digital Social Branding class, my professor Dave Allen made a point that the web is people powered. SOPA and PIPA are a perfect example of this. As a result of feeling what life was like without the Internet we know and love, people took action – and it worked.
The Internet is constructed around the idea that it connects people. You can’t win a fight against the owner of the gun factory with butter knives. Similarly, you can’t win a fight against the Internet when you’re trying to control the very thing that it was created for.
You can take our money…You can take our electrical outlets…BUT YOU CANNOT TAKE AWAY OUR INTERNET! The nerds WILL fight for their revenge (and we’ll win)!
Why will we prevail? Because the Internet is a beast that cannot be tamed. I like to think of it as the “Wild West” for my generation. No matter how hard you try to control it, people will always find a way around the regulations.
Instead of trying to fight and censor the people, why not work with them? Use the power of people to your own benefit.
What do you think about the SOPA and PIPA situation? Can the Internet be tamed? Is working with Internet users too optimistic? Please comment with your thoughts and opinions.