First off, I’d like to thank all of those bloggers and site owners out there for raising awareness of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) issue. Personally, I’d like to thank Jamie Flinchbaugh for sending me a DM to make me aware of the issue, and to inform me that both he and Mark Graban would be joining major sites like Wikipedia and blocking out their sites today in protest.
I, too, do not agree with SOPA and I am glad that President Obama effectively killed it yesterday. The Senate’s anti-piracy measure, PIPA, is still alive & well, however. As you may have noticed, however, I have decided that I won’t be blacking out MFP for today.
The reason? Simple: I don’t believe the correct response to the threat of censorship is to voluntarily censor one’s self.
What the internet has given us is the relentless ability to share ideas and information, in realtime, for both good and ill. While no one would want to take away the “Good” what acts like SOPA intend to do are to take away the “Ill.” At first glance, this seems reasonable and logical – we want to protect people from the objectionable and the illegal. Unfortunately, what constitutes either Good or Ill are matters of time, place and circumstance and what tends to lead to societal, technological, and governmental change is when someone challenges the accepted distinctions between the two.
Yes, I believe property owners deserve to have their property protected and supported with the force of law. This, of course, includes intellectual property. What I disagree with when it comes to SOPA, however, is that the means for protecting this property should be to limit the ability of everyone to pursue whatever interests them. To draw an analogy, it is like saying that in response to a rash of speeding cars on a particular street, no one in the town is allowed to own or drive a car, and the gas station needs to shutdown, too. Unfortunately, in that situation, the powers that be don’t have the ability to patrol every street all the time or stop you from buying gas one town over, so you’ll need to monitor yourself. If you don’t, you’ll get whacked with some penalties, too. Nevermind that you might not be able to go to work or respond to an emergency if you need to.
Back to the blackout as a means of protest. The response to the SOPA and PIPA bills that led to President Obama’s decision took place by means of……the internet! The multitude of voices and the ability to dissemminate information on the issue, in many ways, on many platforms, and in huge volumes at very quick paces is what created the stir. It is exactly this ability to allow information to flow that makes the internet so vital.
Even those sites that are blacked out….aren’t really. The “blacked out” sites contain inforation on SOPA and PIPA, demonstrating that the true strength of the internet lies in the sharing of information and ideas, even objectionable ones, and not in the power of silence. Like this site, many of them are also hosted by GoDaddy and, of course, indexed by Google – who have raised the ire of some folks for supporting the SOPA bill or not blocking out their sites entirely today – proving that the major internet providers will continue to be major providers, SOPA or not.
Why? Because as information flows around the internet people do 2 very human things: They get creative, and they get bored. If a site is down, folks will find a way around the problem. They will go elsewhere or someone will be bold enough to create an illegal site in protest, possibly hosted overseas and beyond the reach of the very laws it seeks to overturn. It might even gain enough popularity to cause legislation or whole industries to realign with what people desire – as expressed (you guessed it) in droves on the internet.
It is that expression of discontent that matters – and it should be done as loudly as possible, with full voice by all those with something to say. The awareness of SOPA and PIPA that brought about the President’s action did not come through site owners voluntarily taking their sites down – it came about through the collective voices of all those site owners and readers emailing, texting, tweeting, and calling Washington on web-enabled cell phones.
I’d much rather see people articulating their exact thoughts on thousands of sites as to why this issue, or any issue that they feel needs to be confronted, is important to them than see those same sites showing a boilerplate message or a simple, blank screen. Through volumes of posts expressing their point of view on an issue, is how change occurs.
Actually, come to think of it, that’s exactly what’s happened on this issue already, isn’t it?
Oh, and by the way……..