POTD 1/19/12 Sign of the Times

Regardless of what you think of SOPA, PIPA, Pirate Bay, MegaUpload, or the “hactivist” group that calls themselves “Anonymous,” it is hard to disagree with the idea that we have entered into new and uncharted territory when it comes to privacy, protest, access, and security.

In the wake of the widespread voluntary black out of many of the Internet’s top websites, including Wikipedia, congressional support for the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act had imploded by the morning of January 19th. Perhaps as a salve to the corporate supporters backers of those bills, the U.S. government moved swiftly today to shut down MegaUpload, a file sharing network that the government claims has cost $500 in losses due to piracy.

In retaliation, the hactivist group Anonymous has taken down the websites for the U.S. DOJ, the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, and the U.S. Copyright Office. As Randall Munroe of XKCD pointed out some time ago, the seriousness of this act is grossly overestimated in the public’s mind. But it’s people’s perception that really matters here anyway.

It’s not thrilling that websites are as vulnerable as they still are, after all DDoS attacks continue to be viable ways of shutting someone down. On the other hand, as it becomes increasingly clear in our political and cultural landscape that the vast majority of American’s lack the financial or social power needed to effect any change, there is something heartening in the knowledge that through boycott and electronic vandalism it is still possible to make the folk in power notice that we’re getting a little pissy down here.

I have no idea where this is all headed, although I’m confident that I’m not the only blogger out there who thinks that things are going to get uglier before they get better. For that matter I know for a fact that I’m far from the only spirit worker who feels that way. The wheels ain’t off yet, but this ride sure is getting bumpy.

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