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Internet blackouts: successful means of protest or a flash in the pan?

The outrage over the U.S. bills intended to protect intellectual property, Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA), has drawn considerable attention to both how successful internet-based protests can be as well as how tightly knit our government and corporations are in this country.

What with the comeback of physical, woman-in-the-street protesting during the wake of the Occupy movement, it is curious that the next publicized form of civil unrest in the United States would come from within the world wide web.

But with the Jan. 18 public blackouts of Wikipedia and Reddit — two widely used websites — in protest of SOPA and PIPA, we can see that protesting on the internet is equally as strong as marching in the streets.

Most of the discontent with these bills stems from the idea that the government cannot and should not be able to censor its people.

SOPA in particular, threatened to give the government enough power to take down blogs and other social media that threatened intellectual property rights.

While some do agree that piracy is wrong and should be regulated, the question is, at what price? The government cannot sacrifice the constitutional rights of the many to protect the legal rights of the few.

And now that both bills have been dropped by congress, as more an more politicians felt the virtual heat on the issue of internet freedom, it seems the online blackouts were successful.

The Jan. 18 blackouts are considered the largest online protest in history and it is clear that they affected the outcome of the SOPA and PIPA bills.

Internet activism has changed the course of history in this particular case.

But is this really the wave of the future? Will we no longer see protesters marching in the streets, waving banners and shouting through megaphones? Will the internet become the new medium for social unrest and activism?

Or should we hold on to the physicality and permanence of live action demonstrations?

The answer, it seems, is not clear.