Something amazing happened on Wednesday. It's doubtful you missed it, but you might not have recognized just how amazing it really was. The unprecedented Internet blackout showed us something incredible: Major websites demonstrated the ability to quickly sway political dialogue. It has been easy to see for many years that big media can influence political dialogue. Media slant, sometimes the result of unintentional bias and sometimes the result of direct influential efforts, has had an impact on many political discussions and legislative proceedings over the years. The impact of lobbyists employed by big media companies is even easier to identify.
On Wednesday, something happened that has never happened before: a coordinated effort by several of the most heavily-trafficked websites changed the course of political dialogue. Following Wednesday's blackout protests, SOPA has been pulled from consideration and PIPA is effectively dead in the water. Politicians were quick to react when overwhelmed by feedback from their constituents. This is a strong message that shows just how much power new media now wields. It took a unique circumstance to bring these major Internet players together behind a common cause, but now we know that it can happen.
As much as I would like to see the general public exercise greater everyday vigilance toward lawmaking, I do not think we will see much change there as a result of this event. What we might see is a stronger and more unified political voice from new media companies interested in protecting the greatest tool for information exchange ever created. I certainly hope that this will at least remind lawmakers that they should seek more input from major Internet organizations when crafting laws affecting the Internet. I do not doubt this event will impact legislative discourse in the future. It may prove difficult to trace the effects, but the world did change on the 18th of January, 2012, and I suspect for the better.
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