The immediate effects of the website blackouts protesting SOPA and PIPA have blown over, but the proposed laws are leaving a lasting impression on students.
The blackouts helped increase widespread awareness of SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act), and even caused some of the bills’ supporters to back off. Students are now left questioning their policy makers in government.
Tyler Quick, a 20-year-old junior international affairs major, is accustomed to using Wikipedia as an easy research tool at work. “I got into work at 8 a.m., tried to get on Wikipedia and was so pissed,” he said.
Quick said that he believes SOPA and PIPA received attention because of the various websites that were opposed to the bills.
“It was all over social media. Because social media made it this big issue, it really resonated with our generation,” Quick said.
Mansur Gidfar, a 20-year-old senior advertising major, has been following the progress of SOPA and PIPA since before the blackouts and explained how important it was for Wikipedia to go dark.
“Had Wikipedia not blacked out and Google not voiced against it, SOPA and PIPA would have remained a fringe issue, and it probably would have passed the house. It came very close,” Gidfar said.
Gidfar uses a website called maplight.org to research the financial support of politicians. To investigate SOPA and PIPA he looked up Representative Lamar Smith, R-Tex., who is the chief supporter of SOPA.
As reported on maplight.org, Smith has received over $100,000 in campaign contributions from the TV/Movie/Music industry alone.
Gidfar said that congressmen have special interests based on who is funding their campaign, and therefore support or deny legislation that would have an effect on their campaign contributions.
“It seems that the reality of what the public actually wants Congress to do is totally divorced from the action Congress takes,” Gidfar said. “I really don’t think that is a crazy thing to suggest. Congress’s approval rating has been extremely low the past month.”
Gidfar suggests that public approval isn’t something congressmen have to be concerned about. He quotes a statistic from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group detailing that during congressional elections, 97% of the time the candidate who raises the most money, wins.
“You have this situation where someone like Lamar Smith has no incentive to really give a crap about what people think about him, as long as he can pull up enough campaign finance contributions to flood his market come election season,” Gidfar said.
Dean Colby, who teaches mass communication law at CU, said that congressmen sometimes do not even read the bills they support, and that there are a variety of problems keeping the public uninformed on certain bills.
“The problem is advocacy groups for the public are understaffed and underfunded,” Colby said. “It’s the industries writing the bills anyway, and not all the meetings are open to the public and that’s a huge problem.”
Ronald Sundstrom, a 20-year-old junior biochemistry major, said that the more he researched SOPA and PIPA, the more he was dissatisfied with what he found.
“The more I keep digging, the more I keep finding that Congress isn’t representing Americans and what we want. It’s completely backwards,” Sundstrom said. “Congress is protecting interests based on the amount of money they’re getting versus the interests of the people.”
Sundstrom said he would like to see more public input into congressional actions. He also said that people have to make an effort to keep themselves informed on certain issues that would otherwise go unnoticed.
“If people aren’t more aware, I think anything can pass. People just have to keep fighting it,” he said. “Everything that I’ve been researching has been exposing how I am affected by the power Congress has. A lot of people don’t know about the laws that are passing, and it shouldn’t be happening.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Don Tartaglione at firstname.lastname@example.org.