Protesting in the Age of Cyberspace

It is difficult to determine if the Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street or both should get credit for the recent surge in civil protest in America, no matter what you believe there is little debate that grassroots advocacy is alive and well.

On Wednesday several Internet sites coordinated the first-ever Internet “blackout” to protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which refers to the House legislation, and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) in the Senate. Wikipedia, Google and other Internet sites went dark Wednesday to protest the bills.Advocates of the bills say they are intended to prevent copyright infringement and intellectual property theft. But opponents say otherwise. As bloggers and people who respect and exercise our right to free speech, it seems there is some question whether the punishment for theft and infringement borders on trampling First Amendment rights.

A well-organized public awareness effort in which sites like Wikipedia and another 75,000 less well-known sites involved with the campaign, along with petition drives and boycotts of companies that support the legislation seems to have made a difference to policymakers. It was recorded that there were 2.4 million tweets (since it is social media, most were opponents of the legislation) protesting the legislation with a link for viewers to contact their representatives.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) the chief sponsor of SOPA through a spokesperson said that he might remove some of the provisions, which prompted the protest, and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who voted to move PIPA to the Senate floor said that the legislation “is not ready for prime time.”

While the vote on the legislation is scheduled for next month, there is little indication what the final bills will look like but in a political climate where people are growing increasingly more comfortable with civil protests—there is a chance that their voices could create more than just symbolic change.



  1. Burroughston Broch says: