Wow! The save-the-Internet protests by Wikipedia, Google, Reddit, Boing Boing and hundreds of other websites marks a watershed moment in the evolution of networked political expression. Millions of Internet users learned that Congress actually can cripple the open Internet in the manner of authoritarian regimes, albeit in the name of copyright law.
Such mass politicization is powerful stuff. Within 24 hours, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid postponed a scheduled vote on the “anti-piracy” Web censorship legislation known as SOPA and PIPA (Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act). The abrupt turnabout was widely regarded as a face-saving move for the benefit of Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a key sponsor of the bill.
Although protests had been building for weeks, the one-day shutdown of popular websites suddenly made visible a huge, alternative universe of citizens who are usually ignored in Washington, D.C. Suddenly the Old Guard could not broker their self-serving, insider deals in the shadows. Suddenly the Web demonstrated its power as a new sort of theater for organizing and representing the public to confront conventional governance.