On January 18, I personally joined the protest and did my part to help make part of the internet dark. Why? I’m neither a big company nor a well-known personage. My lone voice doesn’t reach millions. So, then, why did I do it? A number of reasons. Let me back up.
First, why would I want to? Simply because SOPA and PIPA are over-reaching, poorly designed pieces of legislation. While I understand the stated intent of each, they can be likened to trying to kill a gnat with a howitzer. Rather than rehash all the various reasons myself when they have been so well stated by others, let me direct you to others who specialize in those topics and who have written very clearly about them. Perhaps the three most definitive articles on SOPA and PIPA: Free Speech, Problems, Security (These links borrowed, with appreciation, from the page put together by Fight for the Future,specifically for the January 18 blackout.) Another well written article on the subject can be found here, in discussion about the blackout, Wikipedia, others staging anti-SOPA blackout; White House weighs in.
“But,” some have said, “President Obama has recently come out against SOPA.” Though I note he hasn’t quite threatened a veto. And, in actually, HE, hasn’t exactly come out against it. A statement signed by Victoria Espinel, intellectual property enforcement coordinator for the Office of Management and Budget, federal Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra and Howard Schmidt, the administration’s cybersecurity coordinator was issued that kind of, sort of, but not solidly comes out against it. However, I also must point out that this is the same president who said that he would veto the 2012 NDAA authorizing indefinite detention of American citizens, and then showed he is a spineless coward without a leadership bone in his body by signing it. He instead gave us a signing statement promising that “his administration” would never apply that portion. (Even if we trusted that, we have to recognize it doesn’t apply to other administrations.) Among the many other things he’s done thus far in his tenure, this shows his word is unreliable.
So that is where my opposition to these laws comes from. Why would I participate in these blackouts? Several reasons. First, it is a form of direct action. In these modern digital times, participation online, or lack thereof in a unified and planned action, IS direct action. Failure to recognize this is simply not “keeping up with the changing times”. It is, to put it bluntly, living in the past. It is akin to the people who argue that writing an e-mail is not the same as writing a letter. It is ignorant.
Second, I have e-mailed and called both Senators from my state and my Representative to make my voice known that way. So, these things are not mutually exclusive. In fact, if you visited any of the sites participating in the blackout on 1/18, you would have seen a link of some sort directing you to ways to contact your elected representatives. NOONE was advocating this as the only means of action. This was only one, and only one significant way of showing not only some solidarity but also consensus of the net. A place that very rarely achieves a anything remotely approaching a consensus. A place where that very lack of consensus is, in fact, highly valued! I have signed petitions. I have engaged in conversations and debate. I am actively involved in a variety of means to combat this at every level of my life.
So, what did I do? Well, I did most of the things that I normally do with my day, but the question is more specifically, what did I do in relation to this blackout? I logged out of my social networking sites. No Facebook. No Google+. No Twitter. No WordPress. I didn’t even leave myself logged in and just walk away from the computer, like I am wont to do. Prior to logging out, I posted one last status indicating my participation in the blackout. For those sites that send notification to my phone, it was kind of hard not to respond when I got notifications from people who were not participating. (I had one friend who I think was intentionally trying to goad me into responding, but I refrained. *chuckle*) I wrote this. I read. I worked. I visited with the kids. I thought. I continued with my life. It wasn’t that difficult as I read and heard some of my friends suggesting it would be for them to do to abstain from the social networking sites for the day. Though, I do admit that there were a few moments through the day when I almost forgot and jumped on. I had to remember, and then I thought about why I was abstaining.
And, that, my friends is precisely the point. That is the point of abstaining from those sites today. To help you remember. To remember and reflect on what the effect would be of these intrusive and obtrusive pieces of legislation could potentially do. The censorship that could and likely would result.
Let the combined silence, the reduced traffic on the net, speak our displeasure and disapproval of SOPA and PIPA loud and clear.
Let us hope that we have been heard.
It appears that we have been, but we can’t let up now! It appears that we have gone from 5 to 35 US Senators standing against PIPA and SOPA. That’s excellent progress.
It’s not too late. If you have not let your actual voice be heard, contact your elected representatives now. If you have, do it again!