Reporter's Note: The president seems quite busy lately, but I hope he is still making time to read my daily letters to the White House. I mean, assuming he ever did…
Dear Mr. President,
I am intrigued by the online protest today by Google, Wikipedia, and others over the proposed SOPA law. I’m not gong to get into the specifics of the law, because certainly the supporters and detractors all have their arguments and heaven knows they can make them better than I.
No, what interests me is this tactic of some of these sites effectively shutting down their service for the day. Go to Wikipedia to look up, oh say, fishing, and you briefly see the page you are after then it suddenly changes to a dark screen and a plea from the Wiki folks for you to pester your Congress member over this legislation.
Of course, these web sites are free to do this. Hey, it’s their business. And it seems as if a fair number of people in the online world think it is a reasonable way to play at politics.
But I would be interested to see the reaction in the same community if some other big companies used the same kind of muscle to push their political opinions.
What if major oil companies were angry over the Keystone pipeline decision, so they cut off all their fuel to the nation for 24 hours? What if farmers were upset over farm policy, so they locked up their milk, beef, corn, and potatoes? I’m not sure the online world would be so sanguine in those circumstances.
I understand that “information” is a unique commodity, and we all use sites like Google for free. Certainly that makes my comparisons not precisely apples to apples…but then, I’m not my examples are apples to oranges either. For the record, yes I work for a big company that has supported SOPA, but I’ve not heard a word in the workplace about this matter, and the company’s view has nothing to do with the questions I’m raising here anyway. I’m not taking sides. I’m just pointing out that things are not always as straight forward as they appear, especially when it comes to anyone using tough measures to make a political point.
There are two ways of seeing today’s action. In one view, it is a brave defense of freedom by champions of the cause…willing to risk their own companies for a principle. The other view? It is just another case of hugely successful corporations trying to affect legislation through a type of near extortion.
Anyway, I’ve been pondering this through the day and I’d love your thoughts. Give me a buzz if you have a minute.
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