WEDNESDAY’S ONLINE protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act mark a milestone in political activism by major Internet interests. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg posted a message decrying the anti-piracy legislation now before Congress. Google covered the corporate logo on its home page with a black box, raising the possibility that it could be censored, and 7 million users signed Google’s anti-SOPA petition. With every passing hour, more congressional supporters of the legislation peeled away.
This was in part a victory for grass-roots activism. But it was also a classic Washington situation in which a big-money industry helped stoke public anxieties to further its own business interests.