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(A showroom of smart TVs, all displaying the word #RESIST. One salesperson speaks to another.) Call head office. They're sentient.

The awakening

The awakening published on

These are pretty awful times in much of the Western world, and the next four years in the U.S. look especially disturbing. But there are bright spots — and one of those came shortly after the inauguration.

First several national parks’ Twitter accounts began defiantly posting climate change facts. Then, as the new administration gained control over those accounts, a slew of rogue national parks and science agency accounts sprang up. To someone (me) whose faith in the positive role of the Internet in civil society has been badly shaken over the last year, it’s been a welcome sign of hope.

A much bigger and brighter spot has emerged, too. Online organizing coupled with on-the-ground mobilization produced the historic Women’s March on January 21—with the Washington, D.C. March eclipsing the attendance at the inauguration the day before. By one estimate, the march drew more than 3.3 million people in more than 500 U.S. cities and towns, and an additional quarter million in 100 cities world-wide. (One of those was my town of Vancouver, Canada.) Online organizing also allowed the swift mobilization of protests at major airports over the past few days in response to an especially egregious Trump executive order on travel to the U.S.

And of course online media sharing has let participants at all of these events broaden their reach, and amplified the sense of being part of something much bigger. Social media has a lot to answer for in the alt-right seizure of American executive power. But it also gives us crucial tools in the fight to overcome it, and for more democratic, humane ideas to prevail.

Noise to Signal is, of course, about how we live our lives in the digitally networked era. If you’re up for commentary on the desolate hellscape of American national politics, you might want to check out my collection of #trumpcaps.

#SOPA opera

#SOPA opera published on No Comments on #SOPA opera

Cartoon originally posted on ReadWriteWeb

PLEASE NOTE: This cartoon is made available under a Creative Commons license. If you think it might be useful to you in your (non-commercial) advocacy against SOPA and in support of the open web, then please: use it. No need to wait for permission. If you can credit me and link to this page, that would be lovely.

This was going to be the usual frothy-essay-ending-on-a-reflective-wistful-note that usually accompanies my cartoons, but it turns out that the House Judiciary Committee will resume its SOPA markup debate on Wednesday.

SOPA, if you haven’t been following this story, is the Stop Online Piracy Act (see the Wikipedia article) currently before the U.S. House of Representatives. It opens up some breathtaking new avenues for government and private-sector copyright holders to take action that would – in the opinion of its critics, including yours truly – be deeply damaging to the fundamental nature of the Internet.

Folks like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Creative Commons, Mozilla and Google have all come out swinging against it (and PIPA, SOPA’s sibling bill in the Senate). And so have 83 of the inventors and engineers who actually helped to build the Internet, in a dramatic letter released on Thursday:

If enacted, either of these bills will create an environment of tremendous fear and uncertainty for technological innovation, and seriously harm the credibility of the United States in its role as a steward of key Internet infrastructure. [….] All censorship schemes impact speech beyond the category they were intended to restrict, but these bills are particularly egregious in that regard because they cause entire domains to vanish from the Web, not just infringing pages or files. Worse, an incredible range of useful, law-abiding sites can be blacklisted under these proposals.

Still, even House Democrat Zoe Lofgren acknowledges that the bill’s supporters probably have the upper hand in Congress. But, she adds, “that is because you have not yet been heard from fully yet. That is very much subject to change.”

So it is. If you’re from the United States, I hope you’ll consider the arguments around SOPA and PIPA. And then I hope you’ll contact your elected representatives and let them know what you conclude. (Here’s a list of House and Senate* offices. And here’s a tool that opponents to SOPA can use to contact their representatives.)

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* I know – it’s built in Cold Fusion. And they’re deciding the future of the Internet.