This week’s flexing of political muscle by Internet giants like Wikipedia, Google, Twitter and Facebook, as well as thousands of individual netizens may be a tipping point for political clout wielded via direct action online.
As we reported, over the weekend, the White House got the ball rolling by announcing in a blog post that the administration would not support key provisions of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the senate version, called the Protect-IP Act (PIPA). Then, Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, declared that the Internet encyclopedia would go offline on Wednesday, which it did, in protest to the bills.
Well, it is working. If, like me, you monitor the #sopa and #pipa Twitter feeds, yesterday your screen looked like a day trader’s on a day when the market goes up or down a thousand points. In other words, there was a new tweet on those subjects about every second or less. The LA Times says that Google is reporting that over”4.5 Million people added their names to the company’s anti-SOPA petition” on Wednesday alone.
Politicians tend to listen to voices as loud as this. Marco Rubio, Republican senator from Florida and one of the PIPA sponsors, posted this on his Facebook page:
“I have decided to withdraw my support for the Protect IP Act. Furthermore, I encourage Senator Reid to abandon his plan to rush the bill to the floor. Instead, we should take more time to address the concerns raised by all sides, and come up with new legislation that addresses Internet piracy while protecting free and open access to the Internet.”
Joining him has been a bi-partisan stampede of politicians running away from the now controversial copyright enforcement bills. Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina opposed via Twitter, as did Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, Charles Grassley, Republican of Iowa, and Representatives Lee Terry of Nebraska and Ben Quayle of Arizona. In all, nearly 30 members of Congress have already switched positions, clearly in response to the grass roots (“netroots”) action online.
The two political parties have had a difficult time coming together on big issues like health care, the debt limit, payroll taxes and more. We have written consistently about this era of “broken government.” Perhaps the Internet will become the medium for the type of interactive democracy that holds politicians accountable to the popular will in a way that will result in more bi-partisan action. We’ll see.
- PIPA support collapses, with 13 new Senators opposed (arstechnica.com)
- Protesting SOPA and PIPA: Call Your Representative Now (twilio.com)
- Did It Work? ‘Day After’ Results of the SOPA, PIPA Blackout – TIME (techland.time.com)