Wednesday, January 18

Anyone's an Author on the Internet

The power of the Internet knows no bounds — ask presidential candidate Sen. Rick Santorum. Santorum found himself in a frothy mix of social media and politics a few weeks ago.
A person who didn’t appreciate Santorum’s position on gay rights authored a creative definition of “santorum” on the Internet. The definition is graphically x-rated and unflattering to Rick Santorum. When anyone Googles “Rick Santorum” (and yes, we are now using Google as a noun and verb) the top search result is the creative x-rated definition of santorum. Consequently, the author has effectively communicated his opinion of Rick Santorum to hundreds of millions of Google users.

Once again, the Internet has been demonstrated as one of the most powerful and effective means of communication. Unfortunately for Rick Santorum, the content of the communication wasn’t particularly helpful. The critical difference between TV, radio, printed media and the Internet is that the source of information on the Internet is unaccountable and anonymous. Therefore anyone, however non-authoritative can publish information online and for example, invent words such as “santorum.” For a public figure, especially a politician, the implications of anonymous Internet communications is both good and bad.

It’s in this time of powerful public Internet awakening that the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., was presented before the House of Representatives by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas. The SOPA bill, widely supported by the motion picture and film industry, is intended to uphold copyright laws. Those opposed to the bill argue that it violates the First Amendment, free speech and constitutes Internet censorship.

The SOPA bill is currently flopping like a fish out of water and frankly I don’t think it stands a chance. Surely every Congress member must realize at this point that their reputation both personally and professionally is proliferated around the globe in seconds online. Communication dynasties of the World Wide Web, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter and AOL basically own the face of the Internet and all of them oppose the bill.

If I was in public office and I wanted to keep any group happy, it would be those behemoths. All of the dominant Internet players from Google to Twitter have made a public statement regarding the SOPA bill. Even Wikipedia shut down for 24 hours in protest. The last thing I would want is an uncomplimentary definition of my last name to pop up in a Google search result or an entry in Wikipedia that highlighted every low moment of my life history (of which there are very, very few).
Perhaps there are a few members of congress who think that clamping down on the industry might prevent a hashmark (#) stream on their last name from trending on Twitter. However, it’s worth keeping in mind (and fearing) that there are 14-year-old kids out there that completely understand cloud networking, open operating systems like Linux and free programming languages such as Python (it isn’t called Python for nothin’).

If you didn’t understand the last two sentences then you should completely understand why the power of the Internet has superseded all other methods of communications. An intelligent teenager has the power to manipulate search engine results, generate Twitter trends and affect public opinion in a way previously unavailable. If I was a member of Congress I would be more afraid of the powerful combination of puberty and social media than any educated journalist or the motion picture industry.
With that in mind and as a pre-emptive strike, I have authored my own word and creative definition: ‘vrussell’ (VRUS-sell) noun; a person of great wit and intelligence.

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