Politics of the Internet
Early Internet adopters took advantage of the vast, unexplored network for communications, collaboration and massive amounts of innovation. With unabashed determination and curiosity, they latched on to the Internet frontier and their creativity exploded into a technological frenzy. Today we all reap the benefits.
Almost everyone in the world uses the Internet on a daily basis – to surf the web, pay bills, catch up on lost episodes and catch up with their friends. These activities have become part of our daily routines. And none them, wouldn’t have been possible without the first generation of Internet nerds.
But while their creations paved the way for Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, YouTube, Google and even email, they also paved the way for illegal activity, which is why legislation like the SOPA and PIPA bills were moving through the House and Senate.
Let me preface by saying that I’m not at all advocating for piracy. We all understand copyright infringement is both wrong and a hard battle to fight. And recently SOPA and PIPA have forced us to wade into this uncharted territory.
We participated in the SOPA/PIPA strike a couple of weeks ago to show our distaste with the bills before congress. It was also an opportunity to demonstrate that the bills were missing important technical details that would redefine how users consume information online.
Taking a step back, in 2011, the government spent $30 million on a program to help foreign citizens navigate around oppressive governmental regulations. This program helps citizens of countries like Iran access sites that their governments block. Websites like Wikipedia.
That was an awesome program. Spreading the liberty I enjoy every day to people that don’t have that luxury is a great idea. The government took a great step here, which is why supporting SOPA/PIPA was so absurd – those bills would have made it possible to forcibly block certain domestic sites.
Essentially this means that by supporting SOPA/PIPA, congress would have created the same type of oppressive climate in the United States that existed in the countries they were helping in 2011.
The question is: Why did SOPA/PIPA get so far?
I believe the answer is that our leaders in congress are lacking technical know-how. So maybe ten years ago the web was a brand new thing to them (some didn’t even know how to describe it). But the time for ignorance is over. Our country and its leaders can’t afford to be vague, inexperienced or lack knowledge on potentially life-altering legislation.
Of course, not everyone can be an Internet nerd. But why not consult the nerds before legislation like SOPA/PIPA come so close to fruition that an online strike is needed to stop them? We nerds may surprise you - we can be innovative, resourceful, and legal all at the same time. January 18th was a great example of our great democracy. But hopefully next time experts will be called in before we have to shut down Wikipedia to get attention.