The Power of the Internet

Wow, I'm impressed. Yesterday, the Internet held its first protest. A passive resistance protest in the Gandhi tradition. There were no swear words, no violence, no harmful attacks, well maybe, if you count denial of service for overwhelming email submissions to Congress.  The Library of Congress reported a denial of service attack by people opposed to the legislation.

It was an Internet blackout.  Not all sites participated, but the fact that major sites, like Google, Reddit, Craigslist, and Wikipedia coordinated on one day to pull this blackout off, and make the public aware of the SOPA and PIPA legislation was a first, and amazing, considering the independent nature of web site owners. One estimate stated over 10,000 web sites participated in the protest. This is not confirmed, but given the Internet has over 100 Million active sites, the number does not seem that far off.

It is estimated that over 300,000 people sent emails, or called, their Congressman protesting SOPA and PIPA in the last 24 hour period, and over 4.5 Million people signed a Google petition protesting the Bills according to the protest organizers.

What is the aftermath of this one day shut-down-your-site protest, and send emails to Congress?

The Seatle Times reports that Florida Sen Marco Rubio, a bill sponsor, went on Facebook to renounce PIPA, and Texas Senator John Coryn used Facebook to urge colleagues to slow down and reconsider the Bills. South Carolina Senator and Tea Party member, Jim DiMint, used Twitter to announce his opposition.

Congressman are rapidly distancing themselves from the Bills as fast as they can. According to Ars Technica count and the Atlantic Wire 18 Senators, mostly Republican, have backed away from the PIPA and SOPA bills in the last 24 hours. Seven of them co-sponsored the Bill. The Seatle Times reports over 20 House members have reversed their positions. On Tuesday this group supported the Bill, on Wednesday they said that the SOPA and PIPA legislation was flawed and unsupportable.

Congress for the first time realized that the Internet is not just a bunch of web sites to be regulated like a bunch of unruly grade school kids, but that the Internet is a political force, and has considerable more power than the media and movie industry, a supporter of SOPA and PIPA. The end result was that Congress suddenly realized that the Internet can stand up and defend itself.

The Motion Picture industries, a sponsor of SOPA and PIPA, called the blackout "a gimmick" and "business interests are resorting to stunts to punish their users or turn them into corporate pawns."

Hollywood has a powerful lobby in Washington. They just found out that they have a very powerful opponent that they didn't know was there. Hollywood and Congress learned today that the Internet community has a say. Anyone who can get millions of people to take action is a political force that Congress will have to consider in the future.

The Internet and technical community have established that they have a say in the politics of our country. That was not quite as evident before yesterday. Let's hope Congress listens in the future, and that the big players in the Internet community realize, and take advantage, of their suddenly acquired power to push for legislation that helps, not hinders, the development of the Internet worldwide.

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