Blacking out SOPA/PIPA

When I originally wrote about 21st Century Statecraft Month, I was torn on whether or not I wanted to address SOPA/PIPA. In fact, my first draft of the post was a complete rant about the hypocrisy of 21st c. Statecraft Month and the timing of the two bills. After realizing that I had devolved into incoherence, I rewrote the entire thing and decided to hold off a little bit longer. Now, the two bills have been shelved and it would seem like I missed the opportunity to comment, but I’m actually very glad I waited.

In the time that passed, the story of the two bills went from an issue of government censorship and hypocrisy, to one of an “unprecedented case of grassroots uprising overcoming backroom lobbying.” Amazing.

Before January 18th, I don’t think it would be unreasonable to say that a lot of Americans were unaware of the bills. But, when a site like Wikipedia goes black people start to pay attention.* And that was the point. Regardless of your feelings on the blackouts, people were talking and taking action. The result? Two days later, the House Judiciary Committee released a statement saying that they had “heard from the critics” and realized they needed to “revisit” their approach.

Now, I am hesitant to suggest that the protests are the only reason for the delay. But, let’s  say for a moment that this grassroots activism worked–what next? Short answer: keep going. The blackouts did their part to start the conversation, but there is more to be done. As Marcos Arment points out, asking people to protest every variation of SOPA will eventually get tiring. Instead, Arment suggests boycotting the groups that are lobbying in support of these acts. However, as an alternative consider the approach taken by one Representative from California who wants to keep people talking, and keep Congress listening.

For those who believe that the successful delay of SOPA/PIPA was just a minor victory, crowdsourcing–at its best–presents the opportunity to resurrect the democratic process.  And, considering the fact that Iceland crowdsourced its Constitution, one would hope that we could get our act together long enough to help draft a couple of bills.

*To be fair, not everyone was paying attention. 

[image via CSMonitor]

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