SOPA inspires widespread web activism


I’ve been hesitating to write about SOPA for a few reasons, but mainly for the fact that there are a number of far more knowledgeable individuals writing about the topic. I knew I had something though when web users started targeting companies that support the SOPA bill. The most recent wave of companies to renounce their SOPA ties include Sony, Nintendo, and Electronic Arts. The movement didn’t start there, though. It started on Reddit as a force against GoDaddy, the popular domain name registrar. The social content site didn’t stop there, though. They’re also going after legislators who favor the bill, like Wisconsin representative Paul Ryan.

We’ve seen focused activism from the internet before, but never quite on this scale. In just a couple of days GoDaddy lost more than 40,000 domains and, although hard statistics are tough to nail down, something to the tune of $500,000. That’s not exactly small money. Then again, roughly the same number of people registered new domains in the same time frame, so it’s difficult to say just how much of an effect the movement will have on the domain registrar.

It is having an impact on the SOPA bill and the bill’s supporters, though, as evidenced by the aforementioned media companies’ stance change and the impact on Paul Ryan’s campaign. That’s not to say web activism is without its flaws. In another recent news story, Redditors rallied against Ocean Marketing’s Paul Christoforo, who horribly mismanaged one customer relationship over email. Unfortuntely the company that hired Christoforo for marketing was caught in the crossfire and took a lot of negative press on Amazon and other review sites.

I find this type of mistargeted web activism just as disconcerting as I find the SOPA activism heartening. SOPA is a terrible idea, supported for the most part by people who don’t understand the way the internet works today. But so much of the experience on sites like Reddit revolves around feeling like a part of the collective “we” that people often get caught up in the movement without considering where the gun is being pointed.

Lamar Smith

I do, however, find it difficult to hold activist groups to such a high standard without doing the same with the politicians crafting this legislation. Lamar Smith, who wrote the SOPA bill, said the following about Reddit:

“It’s a vocal minority. Because they’re strident doesn’t mean they’re either legitimate or large in number. One, they need to read the language. Show me the language. There’s nothing they can point to that does what they say it does do. I think their fears are unfounded.” A simple look at the GoDaddy numbers could show anyone just how legitimate a force sites like Reddit can be, to say nothing of the fact that Smith clearly doesn’t understand how vague language in a bill like SOPA can affect its interpretation down the road.


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Nissan & Sony Give Gamers the Chance to Go Pro in Real Life

I don’t blame you for doing a double take at the title of this post. You read it correctly, and I’m guessing you have a few questions. Gamers going pro in real life? What the hell does that mean? With Nissan and Sony involved, it’s got to be Gran Turismo, right? But they wouldn’t put gamers behind the wheel of an actual, physical race car, would they? Yeah, they would.

Sony and Nissan collaborated to create the ‘GT Academy.’ It’s a contest circuit that will give the best Gran Turismo players from across the nation a shot at becoming an actual, real-life, flesh-and-blood race car driver.

From the press release:

GT Academy will challenge gamers and racing fans alike across the U.S. to compete in a series of online time trials in pre-selected Nissan vehicles in Gran Turismo 5. Throughout the course of the competition, participants will earn free digital content just for playing, as well as have an opportunity to win prizes for winning regional time trials. The top 32 virtual racers in the country will compete in the live national finals event scheduled for March 2011 to become one of 16 GT Academy finalists. The 16 finalists will compete against each other in a series of challenges, including behind the wheel of real Nissan race cars, for a chance to become a professional race car driver as the GT Academy winner for the U.S. The winner will have the opportunity to train with elite race car drivers at international tracks and race as part of a professional team.

The final stages of the gaming competition are going to be filmed and aired as a reality series on the SPEED channel in 2012. The show is set to begin filming in March of 2011, once the final competitors have been selected and following all the way through the winner’s training as a real world driver.

If you’ve ever thought your GT5 skills were making you a better driver, this isn’t something you’ll want to miss. For more information, check out the official Gran Turismo site. Gran Turismo 5 launched in the US on November 24, 2010.