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Contributed by Jane Putnam

SOPA. Four letters that mean what, exactly? The Stop Online Piracy Act, an act that was shelved yesterday, meaning it won’t be voted on right now. Politics aside—our agency as a business has no political affiliation and we’re not inclined toward the pro or con group—but what we do have an opinion on is what the aftermath of the past few weeks’ discussion on SOPA means for us as regular consumers of online media, and the changing environment of getting your message out. (If you’re not familiar with SOPA or want answers to some FAQs, CNN posted an article discussing it more in-depth.) It’s a trend we’ve seen growing and growing, with citizen journalism, customer complaints handled via Twitter and allowing the individual to broadcast on its own through online channels.

In protest to the SOPA legislation, websites such as Wikipedia and Reddit are dark today, January 18. Other popular sites have joined in as well, with Google supporting by blacking out its logo. Why the darkness? According to the article on ABC News’ website, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales hopes, “…Wikipedia will melt phone systems in Washington on Wednesday. Tell everyone you know!” This isn’t the first time — nor will it be the last time — that protestors or groups take to the Internet to promote their cause and to rally troops behind the issue.

PPBH is full of aggressive consumers of media, and we take it in in many ways, online included. With the average person spending more than 30 hours online every month, it’s not surprising that “protests” or movements such as this become so big. In December 2011, a “nurse-in” was planned for Target stores following an incident at a Houston store where a customer, who was nursing her child, was asked by an employee to relocate to a fitting room. A Facebook group set up to organize the nurse in garnered more than 6,700 members. Target issued a formal statement apologizing for the employee’s actions and stating that guests who choose to breastfeed in the open at stores are welcome to do so.

Numerous similar occurrences come to mind beyond the nurse in. Remember the backlash Bank of America took for its proposed monthly fee for debit card users? Even the Occupy Wall Street movement used an online presence to grow its cause and maintain communication. As far as SOPA goes, websites offering lists of businesses that support the bill are already popping up and encouraging consumer boycotts. Does that go too far? Maybe. Maybe not.

Bottom line: As Americans we’ve always held our right to speak our mind about things we feel are injustices in high regard. The days of marching with your sign in front of a store or signing a petition are not gone, but the opportunities to make your voice heard, promote your cause or rally a following are multiplying, thanks to the Internet. The outcome of today’s blackout will be interesting — we will have to see its affect on SOPA. In the meantime, if you have a pressing matter to search on Wikipedia, it will have to wait until tomorrow.

Cover image source: PR Daily

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One Comment

  • Melanie Donahoo 10 months ago Reply

    In general, the whole idea of SOPA is interesting, but I’ve never thought of it in terms of how the issue has demonstrated the change in the way we make our voices heard. Does this mean it’s time for me to get rid of all of my picket signs?

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