It seems as if the virtual shutdown of Wikipedia, Craigslist, and other sites yesterday has done its job in the public eye.
The major online players enacted the 24-hour blackout to create mass awareness of the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA), a Congressional bill that would clamp down on online piracy to beyond-draconian standards.
There was a petition on Google that asked people to voice their concerns about SOPA, in addition to its sister bill in the Senate known as PIPA.
"There’s no need to make American social networks, blogs and search engines censor the Internet or undermine the existing laws that have enabled the Web to thrive, creating millions of U.S. jobs. Too much is at stake -– please vote NO on PIPA and SOPA," the petition read.
More than 4.5 million people signed the decree, which does seem to have said some effect in Washington. 18 senators have actually changed their support for PIPA and now in fact oppose the measure.
That is an almost unheard of impact from an online petition, and it just goes to show how much of a voice Internet users have today. Sure, Wikipedia and Craigslist blacking out access drove people to sign the petition, but it was still actual, real US citizens who signed the petition.
This is no longer about lawyers and lobbying forces fighting against one another. This is about the American people shaping the way the legislative process functions. At least in this one instance.
Google has said that if SOPA were to be enacted, it would be forced to shut down Youtube immediately. But beyond the major players, small online businesses, blogs, and people who make a living doing actual honest work would find themselves suddenly faced with legal action.
It's a miracle that Congress has actually listened to these concerns and it looks like SOPA may have a very tough time of passing now. Yesterday's efforts appear to have paid off.