Looking at Google Trends for SOPA and PIPA, the majority of searches came from Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries (sopa de fideo con pollo sounds delicious) or people searching for the now famous sister of a famous new royal – until this week. This week as Google, Wikipedia, Reddit and other prominent sites protested SOPA through various means, a huge, uninformed base of regular, non-tech scene individuals got their first introduction to SOPA. This introduction led to, according to Jimmy Wales, 8 million people looking up congressperson numbers via the Wikipedia blackout page. This introduction led to 4.5 million people signing the petition through Google’s logo link. This introduction led to 25 senators dropping support for SOPA and 13 new Senators opposing PIPA and finally an indefinite postponement of legislation. This introduction led to very real and radical legislative change through little more than awareness of information.
What happened so absolutely right on Wednesday, January 18th was that a large consensus opinion was conveyed broadly and effectively by the web’s most prominent players; information was disseminated, action was taken, an effect was made. These same tactics are used across the communicative spectrum from marketing and branding to propaganda to entertainment, but rarely does a tenuous and dynamic audience like “the Internet” rally to such a cause, or any cause for that matter, and make a real and immediate change. The difference this time from previous internet based legislation, such as the Communications Decency Act which attempted to regulate obscene images on the internet, is that this would disrupt more than just, ahem, obscene material. This would affect the very core of the internet’s piece de resistance – the uninhibited dissemination of information. It also helped that the some of the most popular sites on the internet came out very strongly against these proposed bills and made the message impossible to miss. Certainly some lessons to learn.
At WebLinc we love a free and open internet. We cut our teeth during the early days of the web, helping to create, evolving with and adapting to emerging technologies, getting through the boom and the bust stronger and more aware of the importance of the freedom to innovate. These ideas are no less important to us now than they were in the past, especially with the emergence of mobile devices and social media interaction as an intrinsic element of our everyday existence. Companies like ours thrive on an ever-changing diet of fresh ideas and new technology, so here’s to hoping we never have to go hungry. Now I think I’m going to get some sopa de fideo con pollo.