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This article was published on March 9, 2012

Washington running scared: ‘Nobody wants another SOPA’

Washington running scared: ‘Nobody wants another SOPA’
Alex Wilhelm
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Alex Wilhelm

Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected] Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected]

If you can think all the way back to the high times of SOPA, you have to admit that it was a fun exercise. A comically bad bill, backed by the usual foes of digital freedom, fronted by a newly minted, seemingly nefarious ex-politician, up against a rising wave of technology bravado and swagger. Technology companies, who reach more people in an hour than Hollywood can in a day, used their massive influence, and cash, to breach the mote and sack the castle.

Sure, the horribly named ‘netizens’ are now back in their Reddit mines, but Washington is still quaking. After the well publicized shelling, the act of which drew the public eye to the potential impact of campagin donations on votes (thanks Chris), there is more than a bit of glowering going on in Congress.

Politico, perhaps the United State’s best daily political publication, has compiled a great number of quotes and statements that outline just what effect the SOPA protests have had on the United States’ political class. I’ve snagged a few for your viewing pleasure, but the article itself is very much worth reading. Here we go:

“Nobody wants another SOPA moment. The nerds are more powerful than anyone thought, and the tech industry flexed its muscle like never before.” – Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) said the anti-SOPA movement showed a certain “coming of political age” for the tech industry, and his colleagues in the House are treading carefully. “They’re involving the tech community more and are more interested in listening,” said Polis, who also opposed SOPA. “They’re paying closer attention now.”

“Inside the Beltway, the hope is that the SOPA revolt was a one-time thing … but there’s no doubt that the citizens of the Internet are riled up and plan to stay that way,” said Larry Downes, senior adjunct fellow at Tech Freedom, a policy think tank. “Once the pitchforks are up, it’s hard to put them down.

Reid “doesn’t want a SOPA on his hands, so he’s hopefully going to open his eyes to the alternative version the Republicans have and try to get that through,” [Senate. Rep. Michael] McCaul told POLITICO.

That’s good to hear. Technology companies are exceptionally wealthy at the moment. Sure, Apple might be worth a half trillion, but about 100 billion of that is cash. I don’t have exact figures, but it’s my guess that Apple could write a single check and buy Hollywood, or the music industry, in one stroke. And that’s just Apple. Microsoft, Google, Cisco, and other companies are fantastically wealthy.

Technology companies not only have more money, they have also proven themselves to be more effective at inciting the masses. Google and Wikipedia turned to users to change politics. SOPA backers tried to use politics to change users. One will work, and one will not, once the Valley loads up its cash catapult and rains down on Washington. Victories like SOPA, in their scale of mobilization, will be rare. But the backbone is in place, and the sides of conflict are now well drawn.

And the politicians know it. So good luck, people who want to transform the Internet into something milksop, the people you need to convince are running scared, and we in tech have the people, and money, on our side.