There are few things I love in this world as much as the internet. I’m not ashamed of this love, nor do I think it is particularly unhealthy. It’s been in my life since I was 12 years old and outside of my family, its been my longest sustained relationship.
My friend the internet is having one hell of a week.
First we see the power of the virtual-protest. The ability for big-player websites like Wikipedia and Reddit to form a coalition against a poorly written domestic law. A law that attempted to meet the goal of combating online piracy with over-sweeping language (I like to use the analogy of it being akin to pulling all the cars off the road because they have the ability to go over the speed limit).
From this event something awe inspiring occurred. On every facebook page, twitter feed, tumblr blog, overheard in coffee shops and libraries, places of work and leisure, SOPA and PIPA were discussed. More than discussed, they were contested. With just one day of virtual protest the number of opposing congressmen went from 31 to 101.* While we saw the Arab Spring emerge from twitter and Occupy Wall St begin with a blog post, those acclaimed movements took to the streets. With this Blackout there were no marches or signs, it was just us and our computers.
Fast forward less than 24 hours and you have the FBI indicting Megaupload’s CEOs.** Whether this act is legitimate is up to debate, one that will be taken up in courts (in short, is the online intermediary responsible or the end-user?) The response to the indictment: Operation Megaupload by Anonymous. This fully displays the power of the internet. An abuse of that power? Maybe. But maybe not. It all depends on how they did it. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act prohibits intentionally accessing a protected computer, but it is silent on flooding a server…***
But I digress.
Seeing this evolution of the internet, from my first AOL account back in ‘98 to the events listed above, for the first time I truly see the internet as the wild wild west of the 21st century. Who knows what the next decade will bring for my friend the internet. The battle between copyright owners and infringers? A war against privitization? It’s a new Manifest Destiny, but this time we all participate, from behind our computer screens. And as we’ve seen, it’s a pretty powerful place to be.
*Newsweek-Behold! What the Stop SOPA blackout managed to accomplish in 24 hours.
**FBI Press Release available at http://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/justice-department-charges-leaders-of-megaupload-with-widespread-online-copyright-infringement (but not right now because Anonymous said so)