I literally just finished watching a documentary on Netflix called “Killswitch.” The basic coverage was on Aaron Swartz and Edward Snowden and how they took on the some of the most powerful interests in different areas. Aaron was involved with copyright and Edward, well, we all know what he did. I’m left thinking that I’ve not done enough despite talking about this for several years. This past year was a global eye-opener for all of us on how the government has been corrupted and driven by greed from both elected officials and the lobbies that fund them to do their bidding.
Who remembers the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) that the government attempted to pass in 2012? I’d be willing to bet that there are quite a few people who don’t remember what it was about, why it made so many Americans angry and ultimately why it fell apart ahead of the voting in both the House and Senate. I won’t go into detail on SOPA, you can read all about it here if you’re interested in the history lesson. A quote though, that reveals the true power of the people when awakened.
On January 18, 2012, the English Wikipedia, Google, and an estimated 7,000 other smaller websites coordinated a service blackout, in protest against the bill. Wikipedia said more than 162 million people viewed its banner. Other protests against SOPA and PIPA included petition drives, with Google stating it collected over seven million signatures, boycotts of companies and organizations that support the legislation, and an opposition rally held in New York City.
In response to the protest actions, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) stated, “It’s a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users and arm them with misinformation”, and “it’s very difficult to counter the misinformation when the disseminators also own the platform.”
It was the American people, deciding SOPA was a threat to the open Internet, that rallied in unprecedented numbers to protest against the vote on SOPA using the very medium the Act was to control. Chris Dodd, the head of the Motion Picture Association of America, spearheaded the bill in both the House and Senate as a lobbyist despite saying that he would not become a lobbyist after retiring from government service. He is quoted as blatantly threatening to not provide campaign funds to any government official that voted “No” on the bill. The fact that so many people in the country opposed the bill, it would have meant any House or Senate member changing their vote as a result of the threat by Chris Dodd as being controlled by money rather than the will of their constituents. It was a major win by the American people, making any future attempts at a similar bill that much harder to push through.
I was compelled to pull out the laptop and write this while the frustration and anger was still fresh in my mind. I am as much a part of the Internet as the next person. We are all members of the global experiment (except China and North Korea, they’re a different story) that is the Internet and it’s our duty, no, responsibility to protect it. We have enjoyed a decentralized, almost chaotic, version of the Internet since 1993 that is currently being threatened by the likes of the NSA, CIA, the FBI and 13 other intelligence agencies. The sheer amount of data they collected through PRISM (Edward Snowden leaked this to Glenn Greenwald) and are still currently collecting make it difficult to see patterns even with the most sophisticated big data mining techniques. They’re too concerned with controlling all the data on Americans that they’re missing the warning signs that end up turning into the Boston marathon bombing. It’s easy, after the fact, so say that you had enough data to possibly prevent it from happening; that’s the bitch of hindsight being 20/20.
We are the Internet. The human race on this planet contributing to the global content that has surpassed any libraries of information combined throughout our entire history. We are a changed people because it had allowed us to be connected, in near real-time, in a way that has never existed. The people, not the governments, are the owners and protectors of this vast network of computers and information and we need to fight like we’ve never fought before to make sure that it exists for future generations. People like Aaron Swartz, who died too young because of our government, need to step up and lead the revolutions I know are coming. The documentary described large people driven revolutions about every 50-60 years that tell governments and people in power that they don’t own the field and are forever on defense. We’re on the verge of such another revolution where people like Glenn Greenwald, Lawrence Lessig, Tim Wu and Michael Tracey are leading the charge. It’s our Internet, we should protect it every way we can.