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The Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) aftermath will be remembered in history as the most blatant use of the Internet for purposes of protesting laws seen to date. As SOPA was debated amongst law makers, Internet users learned what it was like to have limited access to content that is normally easiest to find by clicking a few buttons. It was also a great way to gauge how popular these sites are and for what reasons.
Education in the United States is probably the most heavily promoted method of moving forward financially. Thousands, if not millions of students use sites like Google, Wikipedia and WordPress as the starting point for their research. Online writers, who are sometimes seen as the driving force in marketing on the Internet could very well be lost without being able to access their research resources. For these groups of people, the blackout was much like being a part of a company on strike. Some even panicked, not realizing that they should have planned ahead for the event.
Movie Industry: Blackouts Were “Irresponsible”
When the movie industry called the blackouts “irresponsible”, one has to wonder if they are aware of how SOPA could impact them. Irresponsible is a term you might apply to people who didn’t care to do anything about the fact that the Internet was about to become another piece of the Homeland Security nightmare wherein the United States strips the rights of everyone, but declares its own citizens free from persecution. Does the movie industry not realize that censorship is not beyond reaching their market?
What price do these sites really pay for blocking access or being an active part of a petition to keep SOPA from becoming a reality? The Internet is full of commentary from users who support the move and see the bigger picture as well as those who don’t see beyond the part of SOPA that has more to do with censoring the Internet than it has to do with preventing copyright infringement.
Mark Zuckerberg’s Stance
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, made his stance on the topic clear with his statement below, but didn’t shut down the site.
“The internet is the most powerful tool we have for creating a more open and connected world. We can’t let poorly thought out laws get in the way of the internet’s development. Facebook opposes SOPA and PIPA, and we will continue to oppose any laws that will hurt the internet.
The world today needs political leaders who are pro-internet. We have been working with many of these folks for months on better alternatives to these current proposals. I encourage you to learn more about these issues and tell your congressmen that you want them to be pro-internet.”
Along with Zuckerberg was Twitter CEO, Dick Costoto, who was said to have called the blackouts “foolish”. The fact is that these are two of the most powerful social networking tools available and as such, they stand to lose a lot if SOPA were to be passed. But they didn’t lose anything on Wednesday when their sites were full of users actively discussing SOPA. It’s not that these two Internet giants weren’t devoted to the cause. The fact is that they would have been foolish to shut down and prevent their users from being actively involved. That’s just good business sense.
Reactions From Internet Users
For the most part, Internet users seem to stand behind the companies that participated in the blackouts while others claim that sites should be “politically neutral”. Below are some user responses to the blackouts brought on by SOPA.
“I understand both sides of this issue and I support the sites that did the blackout. As a writer, I could not make a living without copyright protection, but SOPA goes too far. There’s no point in writing if everything is censored to such a high degree. I think Google did it right during the blackout: their search engine still functioned, but they blacked out their company logo and linked it to information about SOPA.” Tara Clapper, New Jersey
“I fully support the sites that participated in the blackout. That was just a taste of what we’ll be seeing if the United States gets involved in censoring the Internet. After all, why would sites like Wikipedia exist if they are unable to provide information that users seek?” Rob Smith, California
“I was disappointed in the blackout because I had my own research to do, but I support the reasoning behind it.” Susan Kearon, New York
Learn more about SOPA on Wikipedia.