The debate regarding new media freedom of speech and online piracy is nothing new; however, the attention brought to SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act), two bills currently facing the U.S. Senate and Congress, has created quite a stir. I have been on the Stop SOPA bandwagon since I first heard of it about a month ago but it apparently seems that not many people are aware of just what these bills propose and why they are so dangerous to American freedom of speech. Here is a video that helps explain SOPA and PIPA:
PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.
Many online organizations like AmericanCensorship.org and SopaStrike.com have urged people to get involved by contacting local congress people and senators, blacking out websites, and spreading the word via social networking sites. According to The New York Times “new-media lobbying was having an impact”. Interestingly, although digital media and social movement research have shown that a great deal of activist movements that have solely been fought online have been fairly ineffectual, the Internet going on strike has proven results. Even the founder and supporter of the bill, Senator John Conyn (Texas, R.), withdrew his support only hours after major sites like Google, Wikipedia, and Mozilla shut down their websites or showed their support through blacked out logos, webpages, and/or site content. This exercise in civic engagement will be interesting to watch over the course of the next few weeks to determine how effective can online protests be? New research has shown that the most effective new media protests happen when coupled with offline, physical civic engagement (reminiscent of Habermas’ public sphere) but maybe we’re finally moving towards more efficient and effective methods for dissenting. Or maybe online activism can only be effective when coupled with major corporate support. I hope not. But maybe, just maybe, this will mark a transformation from the days of “armchair activism” towards a more progressive means of social change. Maybe.