Online Piracy Bills Send Internet Atwitter

UPDATE: And so, two days later, SOPA and PIPA are postponed until further notice.

A few months ago, SOPA was the Spanish word for soup and PIPA the name of Kate Middleton’s sister. Cue Jan. 18. 2012: Wikipedia – the popular online encyclopedia – goes dark for 24 hours in opposition to proposed legislation targeting online piracy. WordPress and Google show solidarity by “censoring” their home pages, while posts about the legislation dominate on Twitter and Facebook. SOPA and PIPA gain knew meanings.

I reported from a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in November where representatives from the MPAA, MasterCard and Pfizer testified in support of the measure, while a Google representative testified against it.

It’s very interesting how much attention the issue has garnered since then when only the Internet-savvy knew about the proposed legislation – the Protect IP Act (PIPA) being the Senate version. Today, my Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr feeds are being bombarded with SOPA/PIPA posts.

While most social networks are opposed to the bills, Hollywood and other companies, including CNN’s parent company Time Warner, support them. Interestingly enough, I haven’t yet seen a post on any of my social networks supporting the bills. That could mean that either the people I follow/am Facebook friends with all think alike or that social networks have done quite a job of communicating their position (or that I have no business tracking trends).

From the tech-world side, there’s fear that the bills would censor the Internet and make popular websites disappear due to a SOPA provision forcing search engines to block sites with pirated content. Supporters argue that the measures are necessary to protect copyrighted material and U.S. jobs. For more details, check out CNN Money’s breakdown of the bills.

In the fight between anti-piracy and anti-censorship, who will win? Looks like we’ll find out in the coming months.

I’ll be keeping an eye on reports detailing how many calls are made to Congress today. From the looks of it, people are spreading the word. And if I know anything from growing up with the Internet, it’s the incredible power it has to spread the word and mobilize people.

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