It’s Working: #StopSOPA Protests Make Senators Back Off

Most times, petitions, protests, and the like to seem to have very little effect. People protested against the Iraq War, but we went in. People protested against TARP and the bailouts, but we bailed them out anyways. People protested against Obamacare, and it was passed anyways.

Today is different.

Judging from the news I’ve been seeing, it appears that the SOPA Strike is having an appreciable effect. I’ve already noted that Sens. Rubio and Cornyn, two sponsors, have switched sides on the bill. Declan MuCullough over at CNet reports that there is even more antipathy than I previously thought:

Rep. John Carter, [R-Mars? -Ed.] a Texas Republican who is listed as a SOPA sponsor, “reserves judgment on the final bill,” a spokesman told CNET today. “He’s certainly not saying pass the bill as-is — there are legitimate concerns in this bill.” (See CNET’s FAQ on the topic.)

[…]

The home pages of Craigslist and Google feature exhortations to contact members of Congress and urge them to vote against the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Senate version called Protect IP. Amazon.com and Yahoo’s Flickr have also joined in. (Craiglist’s snarky note: “Corporate paymasters, KEEP THOSE CLAMMY HANDS OFF THE INTERNET!”)

New York senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both Democrats who are Protect IP sponsors, sent CNET a joint statement saying: “While the threat to tens of thousands of New York jobs due to online piracy is real and must be addressed, it must be done in a way that allows the Internet and our tech companies to continue to flourish.” They said they believe “both sides can come together on a solution that satisfies their respective concerns.”

A spokeswoman for Protect IP sponsor Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, said the volume of phone calls today has been “significant.” Cardin, who previously said he couldn’t vote for the measure in its most recent form, is remaining a co-sponsor “so that he can actively participate in fixing flaws in the current bill,” she said.

[…]

A spokesman for SOPA sponsor Rep. Lee Terry, a Nebraska Republican, told the Omaha World-Herald that SOPA isn’t the solution. And Rep. Ben Quayle, an Arizona Republican yesterday had his name removed from the official SOPA sponsor list.

[…]

Sen. Blunt, who withdrew his support today, also said: “Upon passage of this bill through committee, Senate Judiciary Republicans strongly stated that there were substantive issues in this legislation that had to be addressed before it moved forward. I agree with that sentiment. But unfortunately, Senate Leader Harry Reid is pushing forward with legislation that is deeply flawed and still needs much work.”

It’s working. Against all odds and expectations, this protest is working, gorramit.

I must now offer the usual “but wait:” this is probably politics. I don’t actually entertain that all of these politicians are truly concerned about civil liberties and proper governance. They likely just want to save their seats. But you know what? If it keeps these atrocious bills from becoming law, I’m fine with that.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Ca), Chairman of the Committee on Government Oversight and Reform, had this to say about SOPA:

“The Protect IP Act and SOPA are threats to the openness, freedom, and innovation of the Internet. I applaud the Internet community, including the thousands of blogs and websites that have decided to go dark today, for participating in our democracy and opening up the debate on legislation to the public.

“This unprecedented effort has turned the tide against a backroom lobbying effort by interests that aren’t used to being told ‘no.’ I know suspending and changing access to sites was not necessarily an easy decision, but this is a responsible and transparent exercise of freedom of speech. I applaud those participating in today’s protest for their sturdy defense of American innovation, openness and Internet freedom.”

I’m glad to see Congressional leadership recognizing this. Maybe, deep down, they don’t agree with us, but it doesn’t matter. They’re keeping it from becoming law. That’s what matters, in the end.

This is not over yet, not by a long shot. Not until we have stomped these things into the ground, had them voted down, and kept up a long fight that puts them outside the realm of acceptable public policy discourse, will we have won. That is probably a few months, if not a few years, away. But this is still a victory. A victory for freedom.


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