The Power of Social Media has once again been demonstrated with the enormous on-line outcry opposing the SOPA anti-piracy bill in Congress. The legislation was expected to easily pass, but congressional supporters flip-flopped as web sites went dark and Internet firms encouraged massive on-line protests.
It was reminiscent of the HB477 furor last year when Utah lawmakers faced an onslaught of public anger after passing the legislation at the end of the session.
I didn’t support either of these laws, and I won’t defend them, but the reality is that neither of them would have signaled the end of civilization as we know it, had they passed and stayed in place. They both dealt with real problems that need to be addressed.
However, laws addressing privacy and security get people REALLY riled up, especially the conspiracy theorists among us, and opposition arguments take on a life of their own. The social media posts fly fast and furious and the outrage grows exponentially as wild rumors are propagated and enhanced in the viral maelstrom. Once the furor hits that critical mass, there’s no way to plug the deluge and you might as well get out of the way.
That’s what happened with HB477, and that’s what’s happening with SOPA.
I wish we could generate as much outrage over things that matter a lot more. For example, Pres. Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline. Tens of thousands of jobs, energy security, and faster economic recovery are at stake here. It’s worth some real outrage and uprising by the American people.
But instead we collectively go a little nutty over some issues that aren’t really that critical in the big scheme of things.
The interesting thing is that these overpowering social media firestorms are almost impossible to orchestrate or manufacture. Top-down doesn’t work. It has to come from the bottom up.
Sometime I’d like to figure out how to get one going. But I’d prefer to be the instigator, rather than the target.