My #SOPA story. Written entirely by @h0bg0bl1n_ #InternetFreedomDay #ILoveTheInternet
One year ago today, having the backup of Google, Reddit, and several other big companies, and even MC Hammer, the internet community came together to fight against one cause: the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act; better known for the acronyms SOPA/PIPA. We had worldwide trending topics going on Twitter, which happened to be trending for over 24 hours. There were trend like #StopSOPA and #StopPIPA, and I even remember seeing a Stupid Old People of America trend. People made creative YouTube videos, memes, infographics, wrote songs, anything they could think of to help in the defeat of these bills. Some people even protested on the streets. I remember watching a YouTube video of Occupy Wall Street in New York; people had signs like Stop SOPA/PIPA. MC Hammer was even one of the speakers at one of the protests. I remember getting goosebumps while watching that video. It was almost like a dream, but it was all very real. Everyone has their own story to this. But here’s my story..
It was a Thursday; January 12th I think. I was talking to a group of friends before school. They started talking about this bill called SOPA, saying that it could censor the internet. I was like, what? Why would anyone want to do that? So I go home that night, and someone had tweeted about the same bill. So I was interested, and I researched it. I read the whole bill text, and discovered that we had to do something about this. These bills were a direct violation of our online freedoms, in the claim to be stopping internet piracy. It gave the government and companies the right to shut down any website that was guilty of “copyright infringement,” and the term was so vast that this bill would have pretty much given the government the right to censor the whole internet. This was huge. We had to get the word out. But how?… Now it gets interesting.
A couple days later, on a Friday I think, there was an infographic out about how many congressmen supported the bills. It had a majority of congress lobbying behind the bills, and just a few opposing it. So the next day, EFF, ACLU, Demand Progress, Reddit, and just about every other internet activist group you can think of (I didn’t know about Anon at the time, that comes in about a week later) started getting the internet community to come together and contact their congressmen about how terrible these bills were and how they would censor the internet. So ALOT of people got involved and emailed and/or called their local senators and congressmen. And then a new infographic came out on January 15. This one was almost the exact opposite of the one before, with only a few congressmen and senators still supporting the bill, and the majority of them opposing it. But we still had to make our voices heard. And of course you all know what happens next..
By that time, we had probably about 99.9% of the internet community in an outrage about SOPA/PIPA. So it was time to take action. So Google, Reddit, Wired, Mojang, Mozilla, Wikipedia, Cracked, The Pirate Bay, and tons of other big internet companies organized these worldwide website blackouts, scheduling them for Wednesday, January 18. They were going to protest SOPA/PIPA by making their websites black and not accessible for 24 hours, to show how censorship would effect the whole world. It was Monday when I had heard they were planning on this, and I thought that was a really good idea. So I decided to contribute in a way that I as an individual knew how. I got a few friends together and we vowed to not get on the internet at all on Wednesday, from 12:00 am – 12:00 am Thursday, to show ourselves how SOPA would effect us. Of course, I did all of my online trending topic tweets and status protests Monday and Tuesday night. I had gotten myself ready to be not on the internet for an entire 24 hours. My profile picture had a “Stop SOPA” slogan on it, and my Twitter avatar had the same picture on it, along with, what like 5 different Twibbons on it. All of them pertaining to the protest of SOPA/PIPA. I think I remember even having my bio for Twitter changed in protest, and my Twitter background too.
Now on to Tuesday night. It was 11:50 pm. I was still tweet-protesting. There was about 10 minutes left until my friends and I went offline for 24 hours. I had warned people that I would not use the internet on Wednesday, aside for school-wise, and that I would not be seen until the next day, on Thursday. And at 11:59, I logged off of Twitter and Facebook, and went to sleep.
Now it was Wednesday, January 18. The day that I would soon come to refer to as the day that forever changed my life. I woke up, got ready for school, ate breakfast, and went to school. I was talking to the same group of friends as I usually did. They were all taking about the blackouts already, saying that Cracked and Wikipedia were down. I wasn’t even in the circle of people for 5 minutes when they started talking about it. I was proud. Then the bell for school to begin rang, and I was in 1st hour, Biology. We had to use the internet for a quiz, but that was it. (And I told you already, I vowed to stay off the internet UNLESS it pertained to school/school work.) Anyway, then I went to 3rd hour, seminar. We had to use the internet there for some assignment (don’t ask), and a lot of people tried to use Wikipedia. They noticed the site was blacked out, and I went to their website, smiled, and answered about every single question people who didn’t know what was going on, asked. A lot of people knew, though, and were just as proud as I was of the internet community. Next was band. No one really said anything about it there, except for a few of my friends I talked to. Then, I went to English. We have this thing at our school called Channel One, and it’s a news thing we have to watch everyday. The blackouts were the very first thing they talked about in their happening now segment, and believe it or not, that was the top story on it for that day. I was even more proud then. And then the day ended, I went home, did my usual evening routine things (aside for the internet of course) and then I waited until 12:00 am Thursday came around. I tweeted and thanked everyone for what they did Wednesday, and then I went to sleep.
Thursday was a regular day again. I still tweeted the #StopSOPA protest as well as many others did, still had my profile picture and Twitter avatar all blacked out and censored, and still talked about the bills with fellow classmates and friends. Many of them telling me that they went home and found it hard to use the internet at all that night because of the blackouts, so I figured I wasn’t missing anything by vowing not to use the internet for 24 hours Wednesday. My friends followed through with their side of it too, telling me that they had did it, but it was really challenging not to just log into Facebook really quick. So now we just had to wait and see if the protests did anything at all besides bring attention to us and say where we stand. And then it happened…
It was Friday, January 20. The day I also discovered Anonymous. But that’s a different story. I went to school like normal, came home from school and saw that everyone was tweeting “we did it! We stopped SOPA/PIPA!” And I was like, what? So I looked into it, and sure enough, the bills had been tabled. And that is when I knew that we had won. The battle of our age. We did it. It was a truly amazing feeling that I will never forget.
I like what Aaron Swartz once said. “We won this fight because everyone made themselves the hero of their own story. The people themselves killed the bill dead. So dead, that it’s kind of hard to believe this story. Hard to remember how close it all came to it passing. Hard to remember how this could have gone any other way. But it wasn’t a dream or a nightmere, it was all very real. And it will happen again. Sure, it might have some different name, and maybe a different reason, and probably do its damage in a different way. But make no mistake, the enemies of the freedom to connect have not disappeared. The fire in those politicians’ eyes hasn’t been put out. There are a lot of people, a lot of powerful people, who want to clamp down on the internet. We cant let that happen.” –Aaron Swartz, F2C conference 2012. RIP, you were a great man, and you will forever be one of my heros.
So, in conclusion, the moral of this story is to never give up, fight the good fight, and you might just defeat your own SOPA, be that a bully at school, injustice you see, or another bill just like SOPA/PIPA. And I also discovered a whole new opportunity and a fire for freedom that burns within me. I didn’t know that fire existed until Wednesday, January 18, 2012. A day that has forever changed my life, and made me proud to be telling you this story today. Thank you.