February 1, 2012

A New Era of Protest. ~ Hayley Samuelson


Time Magazine named the protester, Person of the Year. Not surprising as protesters dramatically changed the world we live in over the course of 2011.

History was made as uprisings in the Arab world showed us the power of an individual’s voice. And history was made as citizens demanded a change by occupying the streets of American cities.

Following this trend, 2012 started off with another revolutionary type of protest. A protest thats’ creativity revamped what it means to stand up for what you believe in.

If you visited sites like Wikipedia or Google on January 18th you saw the effects anti online piracy/copy right infringement bills (SOPA & PIPA) would have if they passed.

This 24-hour black out set out to raise awareness of the upsetting consequences associated with the passing of SOPA/PIPA. These bills threaten free expression on the Internet and could change the way we all use websites. They would make most of our free information illegal and therefore unavailable.

Wikipedia took a stand, blocking entrance to their site with a message reading: “Imagine a World without free knowledge.”

 Outraged by the realities of this censored world, millions of Americans took action—amazing results followed.


Reportedly, 8 million people looked up their congressmen using a Wikipedia tool and contacted them with thoughts on the matter.

4.5 million people signed blackout petitions urging their congressmen and women to reconsider their stance on SOPA/PIPA.

Most controversial bills take months to pass, in only 24-hours, this blackout protest convinced 18 senators to withdraw support from these bills.

Look at the Occupy Movement for example, after months and months of protest they have yet to reach as shocking of results as this web blackout did in only a day. Not to say that the Occupy movement has not yielded any results, it has brought great awareness of economic injustice and inequality in America and is fighting for a much larger end goal.

Strikes against SOPA/PIPA pointed out how direct and imminent these bills would have against web using Americans on a daily basis, this is what made the protest so powerful.

The final decisions on these bills was also delayed and until this date we will not know how successful the protests were, but it is shocking that we have the power to change a government official’s mind so quickly.

Web designers, highly influential internet companies and average citizens combined forces using creativity and ingenuity to stand up for what they believe in, freedom of speech and a world free from government censorship. They were able to make an impact, change people’s minds and force congressmen to reconsider the implications of the SOPA and PIPA bills.

As people begin to realize that their voice, their ideas and what they stand for can be heard they begin to revolutionize the protest field.

In this case, applying unique and in your face ideas along with adapting to technological advancements completely derailed the tracks of political action.

What does that mean for the future? Can we use this Internet blackout example to become more effective protesters? Those who are passionate about an issue they want changed need only figure out how to show citizens and government how crucial and directly the issue affects them.

I have a feeling that we can use this strike as an example of how protests should be, we can use this as a basis to inspire social and political change in the world.


Hayley is studying journalism, politics and international media at the University of Colorado at Boulder. In between juggling school and various jobs, she makes time to snowboard, travel, write and craft. She surrounds herself with people that motivate and embrace her as she strives to make a difference in anyway she can.



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