End Brainwashing, Not Information (Caroline Lawrence)

“End Piracy, Not Liberty,” proclaims the glowing screen in front of you.  You had only wanted to search for a homework question, but the black bar over the Google logo intrigued you.  Clicking on it took you to https://www.google.com/landing/takeaction/, adorned with patriotically red, white, and blue figures yelling into a megaphone.  The text above this picture warns that the Protect IP Act (PIPA) and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), bills appearing before Congress that day, will “impose harmful regulations on American business” and “cripple our innovation economy.”  What?!  The rage starts to bubble as you learn that “55 of America’s most successful venture capitalists” and 67 major businesses are against the bills.  Congress can’t do this to us! you fume, indignant.  Quickly, you click on the link that allows you to “thank Congress for defending the Internet” and add your name to the growing number of protectors of American liberty who have fallen into the same trap.

PIPA and SOPA were drawn up to counter the problems of Internet counterfeiting and piracy by setting definitions of – and punishments for- online theft.  When they appeared before Congress on Wednesday, January 18, the Web went wild.  In addition to Google’s dramatic online petition, Wikipedia staged a blackout- the Internet form of a sit-down strike- in which all links were redirected to a stark black screen that implored users to “Imagine a World Without Free Knowledge.”  Craigslist, Mozilla Firefox, Wired, WordPress, and PerezHilton.com were among the many other popular sites that joined in the protest.  Congress was all but forced to delay voting because of all the opposition from the American people.  However, the citizens who so feared being cheated out of their Internet were actually cheated out of something much more important.

Most Americans in this age are more aware of what media giants like Google and Wikipedia are doing than Congress. It’s doubtful that any significant percentage of the more than 7 million people who signed Google’s petition actually looked up the bills on Congress’s website.  If we want information, we turn to Google.  Or to Wikipedia.  Or, sometimes, even to PerezHilton.com.  And regardless of whether PIPA and SOPA would be good for our country, we deserve the right to unbiased information- or, at the very least, two sides of an argument- before making a decision.  That definitely did not happen on January 18, when all the resources we trust were telling us to oppose the bills.

The American democracy is founded on equality and the chance for everyone to express their opinions.  But this right is slashed in half when people can only base their opinions on one-sided propaganda that is passed off as pure information.  America has placed our trust in the Internet, and while we were trying to defend it on January 18, it double-crossed us.