I did not actively participate in the SOPA/PIPA black out on this blog because my blog is still young and because I tend to post late in the week. That said, I did follow with interest the black outs and protests of other sites I follow. Some of the blogs that did not go entirely quiet produced some great content. My favorites include a parody of American pie called The day the LOLcats died, a summary of the SOPA problems summarized in Quiet Riot Girl’s Blog, Mental Floss looked directly at why Wikipedia was down and Good covered a post-SOPA internet would mean.
With all of this excellent coverage the day of and immediately following the protest I was a little surprised find this collection of responses to the blackout on Twitter (compiled by @herpderpedia). Most of the responses range from the frustrated to the confrontational. One even laments that the president shut down Wikipedia. While I’m not surprised that the blackout caused an inconvenience (there were work arounds in any case) I was surprised that from what I can tell from these posts none of these people read the reasons for the black out or wrote to their Congressmen to ask for an appeal. Wikipedia made it incredibly easy to contact your representatives (even for someone like me who regularly emails and is now on a few email update lists because of it) and while you still had to form a letter for yourself the process did not take more than about ten minutes. The process was not foolproof, for some reason I could not access Diane Fienstein’s contact page – perhaps too many people were logging onto it at once, but I was able to write Sanchez (my representative) and Boxer (my senator).
I received a response via email from Sanchez yesterday, it looked like a form letter but it was a form letter that responded to PIPA/SOPA and included my contact information rather than the usual “thank you for contacting me about your political concerns” letter. Which brings be to the scariest part of the PIPA/SOPA black out. In a time when our elected officials are easily reached and communication both ways is so easy, how many people took advantage of the opportunity to make themselves heard? Some of the angry posters are probably not eighteen but they could still write a letter, or ask their parents to do so on their behalf, organize an awareness movement at school or just learn more about what was going on for themselves.
The library world is very aware of what PIPA and SOPA could mean if they passed and are passionately protesting in the political arena but I worry that we may have missed a valuable teaching moment in reaching out to our users. A web 2.0 society that is focused on creating as well as consuming media won’t read posted messages and won’t create a protest message, how can we work to change that?