Thursday, January 26, 2012

Virtual Protest, Real Results

Millions of people from across the internet came together in the last month to virtually protest the Protect I.P. and Stop Online Piracy Acts, two pieces of anti-piracy legislation under consideration by the United States Congress. Congressional leaders tabled the bills indefinitely last Friday, marking a huge PR victory for a number of websites and organizations.

Google, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, Wordpress, and Reddit have all spoken out against the legislation. These websites, among many others, have joined with millions of internet users to stage online protests across the web, primary on social media websites. Anonymous, a large online hacktivist group, has also joined the fray. The group has publicly condemned the bills and have hacked a number of websites and social media accounts in response to their consideration.

The legislation was largely a bi-partisan effort to crack down on websites that help facilitate the illegal peer-to-peer file sharing. Proponents of the bill include the Recording Industry Association of American and the Motion Picture Association of America, which claim that these websites violate copyright and intellectual property laws. Many of the bills’ original backers switched their stances on the two pieces of legislation after public opinion turned against them.

Congress’s quick response to public pressure may temporarily paint representatives in a more positive light. However, representatives who switched their positions on the bills may appear to be weak in their convictions and might be easily labeled as “flip-floppers.”

The tabling of the two pieces of legislation is a PR win for many websites and the groups across the internet. This temporary victory has boosted traffic to many websites that have participated and shows that grassroots organizations can truly influence the government without tons of money. The move is a loss for the RIAA and MPAA, two groups already have low favorability ratings with many Americans. Such a public ordeal might make them appear weak and could be devastating to their future government relations efforts.

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