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The Internet Blackout: What 4.5 Million People Told Washington

They told Congress not to censor the web!

I personally thought Lynnette Young (founder of the Women of Google+) had an insightful position on The Internet Blackout as Cecily Kellogg wrote on Tuesday, “The true test of the Reddit, Wikipedia, & Google etc. blackouts (or similar) will be if my MOM tells me about it…”

Ironically enough, MY mom DID… on Facebook!!!

I could hardly believe it as the link she shared to SOPA/Blackoutpage on Wikipedia scrolled up on my newsfeed. Either my mom is a lot more tech savvy than I’m giving her credit for or The Blackout really did have an impact.

Call me more cynical than the average bear but I just was not sure that anything less than Google, Facebook and Twitter going down was going to be heard in Congress. I mean, Wikipedia?!

Just a quick recap here: Yesterday was the day that two bills, the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Senate’s Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) were up for voting. They were attempts to stop illegal downloading and sharing of copyrighted material on the internet. Opposition to the bills claim that the way the bills were broadly written, they would end the internet as we know it — preventing innovation, limiting service, and making it impossible for many people to operate their businesses.

Yesterday was also the day that major sites like Wikipedia, Craigslist, Vimeo, Reddit, and even Google took action to make their opposition to the bills known and encourage people to write and call their legislators. The world’s most search engine slapped a black bar on it’s logo and directed people to its petition. Apparently, it worked because 4.5 million people signed their names to the Google petition and 300,000 people emailed or called lawmakers, according to the protest organizers.

So what happened? Backers of the original bills started to back off: Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., renounced PIPA (which he had co-sponsored) on Facebook. Texas Sen. John Cornyn also used Facebook to urge colleagues to slow the bill down and Sen. Jim DeMint from South Carolina got on Twitter to announce his opposition! It was just the beginning.

The Kansas City Star reports Yochai Benkler, a co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, saying that the blackout showed not only that tech companies had become influential but also that they now recognized that they had to work with Washington instead of around it. Benkler says:

“Today was a very strong public demonstration to suggest that what historically was seen as a technical system of rules that only influences the content industry has become something more,” he said. “You’ve got millions of citizens who care enough to act. That’s not trivial.”

 

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