A new post on BGR [http://bit.ly/xUX9Od] points to a NYT Op-Ed by the CEO of RIAA claiming that the Google and Wikipedia misrepresented SOPA and PIPA. Google, Wikipedia, and many others joined together to present the TAKE ACTION initiative on January 18. 2012. This initiative represents a first in internet lobbying where the influence of internet users persuaded Congress to drop SOPA and Senate to drop PIPA.
This new Op-Ed by Cary Sherman suggests that sites like Google and Wikipedia misrepresented SOPA and PIPA and the whole episode "[raises] questions about how the democratic process functions in the digital age". It goes so far as to suggest that "the television networks that actively supported SOPA and PIPA didn’t take advantage of their broadcast credibility to press their case. That’s partly because “old media” draws a line between “news” and “editorial.”". His point of view is based entirely on the premise that since it was coming from Google and Wikipedia, readers assumed it was appropriate.
All of this is very interesting to me because contrary to what Mr. Sherman suggests, the TAKE ACTION initiative is in fact democracy at its best in the digital age. Here are three reasons:
1) Mr. Sherman assumes I did not read about the bills. Wrong! What Google did exposed SOPA and PIPA to me. Then I used the resources of the digital age to read more about the bill. Only when I was clear about my position, did I "take action". Now I cannot assume everyone did this. But given my situation, I can only hope everyone did. In the same manner I can only hope that the supporters of the bill in the Senate and Congress did too when they took their initial and final position on the bills.
2) The ability to act or not act is the core aspect of a democracy. Google provided a opt-in platform to voice my concern for SOPA and PIPA. That's all it was - a platform. What makes the story work is that 7 million Americans responded and voiced their opinion. What if no one responded? What if no one felt this was an issue important enough for them to take action? Wouldn't the story play out differently today? The idea that when people act a certain way democracy turns into demagoguery only appeals to the person whose position was voted down.
3) Google and Wikipedia (and others not recognised in the article) did not coerce an action, they only suggested it. It is the people, the democracy that coerced the action. Those in the Senate and Congress did not have to listen to the initiative, they could have brushed it off...but they did. If SOPA and PIPA were as important to media space as Mr. Sherman suggests, why did the Senators and Congressmen act the way they did?
In any case, read the Op-Ed piece and decide for yourself. Once you do that, make sure you also read the flood of comments which followed - not one (as far as I can see) in favour of the opinion. Let me know what you think...