What otherwise would be a normal Wednesday afternoon, became a memorable day in tech history as SOPA rose to the forefront of American consciousness. It was nearly impossible to escape SOPA as it was present everywhere, from the TV at the gym to my Facebook newsfeed, it seemed like everyone was talking about it. There were even 2.4 million Tweets about the impending legislation! Many sites decided to protest the website along with Wikipedia. Wednesday's 'Google doodle' featured a large crooked black rectangle slapped on top of the site's famous logo, and Wired censored most of the content on its homepage with black rectangles. See this Mashable slideshow for some more blocked sites.
SOPA-talk no longer focused on protecting the intellectual property of artists and others, but now concerned protecting the right to access information on the internet. The internet and its information-sharing capabilities have become an important part of contemporary culture--for many, these information-sharing platforms have became an extension of ourselves. We rely on YouTube to experience the joy of listening to our favorite songs or rewatching old tv clips. We rely on Wikipedia to look up facts and figures, and Blogger to express our thoughts and opinions. As I was watching the latest episode of Modern Family on Wednesday night, I wanted to know Sofia Vergara's age and immediately jumped to Wikipedia for the answer (only to be presented with the blocked homepage shown above). Legislators and others question, however, at what point, does information-sharing become illegal distribution? As internet piracy and counterfeit cost the US thousands of jobs and billions of dollars each year, perhaps the self-indulgent activity of information-sharing may be causing more hurt than good. There are certainly lots of issues to weigh when it comes to this issue, but the SOPA controversy further demonstrates the ways in which technology continues to shake up outdated legal, cultural and social norms.