The War on the Internet

By Glenn Battishill

As some of you may have noticed, two weeks ago several Internet entities such as Google and Wikipedia shut down to protest something called SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act. A petition on Google collected over four and a half million signatures, Twitter recorded a quarter of a million tweets and hour concerning SOPA and lawmakers reportedly collected over 14 million names in protest.

The next day, January 19, saw some of the bills biggest supporters suddenly drop away.

By January 20 SOPA was dead in the water. It was promptly shelved by congress along with a similar bill PIPA, the Protect IP Act.

It was a great victory for peaceful protest and another gold star for the power of social media.

Both bills were designed to allow government the ability to block access to websites that displayed copyrighted material. Opponents for the bill rallied behind the First Amendment and free speech saying that granting anyone the ability to block entire websites is censorship.

Amidst all of this protest there was a quiet little private war on the Internet, namely Anonymous versus SOPA supporters.

Anonymous began in the early 2000’s as a way for posters on imageboards to remain anonymous.

Over the years they have established themselves as vanguards for free speech, free information and a free Internet.

Being a entity comprised of an unknown number of members without any core leadership it comes as a shock to some how dangerous and powerful this group could be.

On January 19 the US Department of Justice and the FBI shut down a website called Megaupload citing copyright infringement law. Many questioned the need for a bill such as SOPA or PIPA if the government already has the power to remove websites for copyright infringement.

Then came Operation Blackout.

One by one SOPA supporters started to notice that their websites were being taken down. The Department of Justice, FBI, MPAA, RIAA, US Copyright Office, EMI and Universal Music Group were all taken down by Anonymous.

People worry and fret over Anonymous and fear what they could be capable of one day.

But I don’t think Anonymous is something we should worry about. Anonymous, while powerful and seemingly sinister, has only every lashed out in attacks when they are provoked or whenever they feel the power of free speech is being lessened.

They aren’t here to rob people on the Internet or hack into your computer, they exist out of a desire for vigilant protection of freedoms, especially on the Internet. I’m not advocating hacking, I’m advocating the defense of free speech.

The Internet is quickly becoming a very powerful tool for change and free speech and while under the protection of Anonymous it seems it’s going to stay that way.