SOPA Protests Show What a Flash Flood of Activism Can Look Like

Katrina Kimport and I follow other scholars in arguing in Digitally Enabled Social Change that web-based activism introduces a new model for the power of movements, which is more like a flash flood in its quick but devastating wrath. People wonder if online protests “matter” if the flood doesn’t last for long periods. The recent protests against SOPA showed exactly how massive this kind of flash flood of activism can become: the LA Times reported on two anti-SOPA petitions that together had almost 6 million signatures, two other websites that reported over 350,000 emails to congressional leaders on SOPA, and almost 40,000 blogs that got involved through either black outs or ribbons. The anti-SOPA online protests also showed how persuasive such a flash flood can be, leading a number of legislators, including bill co-sponsors, to pull their support or ask for more review before legislative action moves forward. Notably, most of the action was online, with only small and not very well-covered protests in the streets.

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