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One Year Ago We Killed SOPA -- Happy Internet Freedom Day!

January 18, 2013 - by Donny Shaw

One year ago today, thousands of websites and millions of internet users took action to stop major internet censorship bills in Congress, SOPA and PIPA. The protests changed the way many people think about politics by proving that bringing together an educated public to take action, online, can defaet the corrupt agendas of the most powerful interest groups and members of Congress. To celebrate this enormous, ground-shaking victory, we (PPF) are joining a bunch of the other groups that were involved in the SOPA fight in declaring today, January 18th, a new holiday — “Internet Freedom Day.”

From our perspective at OpenCogress, the SOPA protest was our biggest day ever. We saw a new high in site traffic, with over 250,000 unique visitors and more than half a million page views (more than double the traffic from our previous high during the health care debate). More importantly, people engaged with our action tools on a deeper level than ever before. Our crowd-sourced “Stop SOPA and PIPA” whip count became the internet’s unofficial scoreboard for watching senators withdraw support for the bill in real time. Thousands of people, including people in every state, used the tool to call their senators and record what their offices were saying about their position on the bill. As the day progressed, you could refresh the page and every 15 minutes see another senator withdraw their co-sponsorship or switch from “on the fence” to “no.” It was an unprecedented reversal from Congress, and the community whip count gave the public a unique way to watch it unfold. Beyond the whip count, hundreds of people participated in our public mark-up of the legislative text and our extensive “money trail” page was linked to around th einternet, revealing which corporations were funding the bill, and who in Congress was taking the money. 

So today we celebrate the day the internet officially became a political force to be reckoned with. It’s been one year since we shook up Congress and the political establishment, and since then the internet has continued to win. The anti-privacy bill in Congress, CISPA, was left to die in committee. The SOPA-like Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) was rejected by the European Union. The ITU voted against new global internet regulations that would have been sympathetic to political censorship. And Hollywood has said they have no plans to pursue more bills like SOPA in Congress any time soon. Of course, the fight for internet freedom is not over. Right now, Hollywood and the anti-competitive telecom industry are working together to develop their own censorship rules, outside the scope of law but with no way for most internet users, who have no choice in service provider, to opt out.

Today’s call to action for Internet Freedom Day is to share something that represents to you why the internet must not be censored. It can be anything — a video, article, photograph, website — that you feel should be shared far and wide on the open internet, without government or corporate interference. Obviously, there’s an endless amount of data about Congress that’s worth sharing (that’s why we built OpenCongress), but for now we’ll go with Rep. Alan Grayson [D, FL] grilling Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Donald Kohn on why the Fed refuses to disclose the recipients of some $1.2 trillion in taxpayer money it spent on rescuing failed banks. Watch below, and Happy Internet Freedom Day! Follow along on micropublishing: @ppolitics & #opengov list.

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