On the SOPA Blackouts

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Tens of thousands of websites, including big names such as Wikipedia, Google, Reddit, Wordpress, and Mozilla, have blacked out their pages today in protest of the SOPA/Protect-IP bills that are being pushed through the US Senate despite massive opposition from just about everybody else.

I support the idea behind the blackouts, but I also agree with this piece by Joe Brockmeier over on ReadWriteWeb:

The dirty little secret of SOPA is not that the entertainment industry has far more influence than it ought to have on Congress. Anyone who pays attention already knows this. The dirty little secret of SOPA is that almost nobody pays attention to what Congress is doing 99% of the time.

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Most of the SOPA/PIPA tools have to direct people to their representatives because they don't know who they are or how to contact them. Think about that for a moment. It's good policy for a political organization to make it as easy as possible for voters to act, of course. But, without instruction, a large swath of the voting public has no idea who to contact or how. Worse, unless you make it as easy as humanly possible, they won't bother.

I'm glad that the big guys are raising awareness about this issue, but I have to wonder, will this really spur public activism on a widespread scale? Most people I've talked to have no idea what any of this SOPA stuff means or why it will matter to them. These are the people who don't follow technology matters all the time and will simply be annoyed that their favorite website has been shut down, even if for only one day.

It also seems a bit odd to me that people are protesting so hardly about something that would be pretty easily circumvented even if the bill passes. But what about healthcare? Remember when everybody got outraged about our healthcare system and cried out for reform a few years ago during Obama's election?

Now you hardly ever see it come up in public discussion, at least not on the same scale. The general public has a very short political memory and I can only assume that the same thing will happen with SOPA/PIPA. It will be all over Twitter, Facebook and plenty of blogs for a little while, and then people will move on to the next bandwagon cause. And so it goes.