Last week, it was impossible to log onto any social network without reading about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). SOPA is a bill that was introduced to the United States House of Representatives last Thursday. In the interest of keeping this post concise and on topic, I’m not going to go into depth with the fine print of SOPA but rather reflect on the impact social media had on the bill.
Last Wednesday, Reddit, a social network with 21.5 million monthly visitors, was one of several websites that initiated a blackout by shutting down their website in protest of the bill. Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO of Facebook, the world’s largest social network, took to his Facebook profile to share his stance on the bill. This status update garnered more than half a million “likes” and close to 100,000 shares. Reddit’s temporary blackout page linked to a petition visitors could sign along with representatives’ phone numbers to encourage an active protest. Wikipedia‘s blackout page listed the Twitter handles of the visitor’s local representatives. This is a far cry from the the traditional snail-mail letter sent to officials we’ve known for centuries. This only further emphasizes the role of social media in today’s society.
While it is unclear how many people contacted their local representatives, we do know that social media certainly got people talking about the bill. The number of Tweets related to SOPA on Twitter alone was simply astounding.
Quick update on yesterday’s @twitter numbers: Looking at the entire day on Jan 18, 2012, there were about 3.9 million SOPA-related Tweets.
— Twitter Comms (@twittercomms) January 19, 2012
The public outcry on social media was without a doubt heard by representatives because they day of the blackouts, two Cosponsors withdrew support from the bill. By Friday, Lamar Smith, the chief sponsor of SOPA announced he was pulling the bill. Regardless of one’s stance on SOPA, it is impossible to deny that social media played a huge role in its ruling. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon made this clear when he took to social networks to express his gratitude for all the social posts about the bill.
For all those who might have thought that their voice didn’t count in their government, I hope you now know it does.
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) January 20, 2012
When people question the significance of social media, I look to instances like this. It has been a source of breaking news, raising awareness to support causes, and has now played a major part in a protest. Despite being a relatively new outlet, I’m amazed at what has been accomplished on social media in recent years. I am truly excited to see how they will progress in the future and am eager to learn as much as I can about social media with #DrakeSocial this semester.
The above is a blog post for Social Media Strategies, a course I am taking at Drake University. To learn more about the class, visit our class website or follow along with our Tweets with the hashtag #DrakeSocial.