Some of the key figures from the worlds of computer science, business and politics who came together to defeat the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act.
Unlike so many tech execs who play the role of shrinking violet when there's even a whiff of political controversy, Google co-founder Sergey Brin was among the most vocal executives on the front lines criticizing SOPA (and PIPA), which he likened to Internet censorship practiced by the likes of Iran and China. "I am shocked that our lawmakers would contemplate such measures that would put us on a par with the most oppressive nations in the world," Brin wrote at the time. (See related story about what SOPA's backers now think, one year later.)
Wikipedia went dark on January 18, 2012, one of many Web sites that participated in a protest blackout. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said the 24-hour shutdown was designed to send a "message" to Congress, calling the blackout a decision of the Wikipedia community.
It wasn’t just the knee-jerk free-speechers who joined the anti-SOPA movement. Stewart Baker, a former Homeland Security assistant secretary and NSA general counsel, warned Congress that the bill’s passage would "run directly counter" to what the government was doing on cybersecurity. “If the bills become law, the security system won’t be able to tell the difference between sites that have been blocked by law and those that have been sabotaged by hackers,” he said. “Indeed, it isn’t hard to imagine crooks redirecting users to sites that say, “You were redirected here because the site you asked for has violated copyright,” while at the same time planting malware on the user’s computer.”
Craig Newmark parlayed his curmudgeonly popularity as Craigslist founder to promote the anti-SOPA cause. He said the legislation offered the "means by which bad actors (with lots of money and lawyers) can take sites down. They talk about oversight to prevent abuse, but ... I've been in customer service for around seventeen years, and there are always loopholes which enable abuse." (You can see his full video statement here.)
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, whose district includes the heart of Silicon Valley, helped lead congressional opposition to SOPA. Her message: Pass the bill and it would signal the end of the Internet as we know it.
One of the nation's foremost constitutional scholars, Harvard's Laurence Tribe provided a blistering legal argument that SOPA opponents used to attack the legitimacy of the bill. According to Tribe, the wording was vague and the overly broad scope of the proposed legislation would inadvertently target legitimate sites. Bottom line: "It would violate the First Amendment.
The late Internet activist Aaron Swartz played a role in blocking SOPA with the founding of Demand Progress as an advocacy group focused on Internet legislation. Here's Swartz in May 2012 talking about the movement to stop SOPA. Carmen Ortiz, 57, the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, is now being investigated for alleged prosecutorial abuses that may have prompted the 26-year old activist to take his own life last week.
Markham Erickson, executive director of NetCoalition, represented the interests of Internet companies such as Amazon.com, Google, eBay, and Yahoo in the battle to defeat SOPA and get Congress to consider alternative ways to battling of piracy without compromising innovation and free expression.
Steve Crocker, a legendary computer scientist and nowadays chairman of ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), offered his imprimatur to the anti-SOPA movement. As one of the people who helped create the building block technologies for the Internet, Crocker co-authored a position paper (PDF) spelling out potential havoc SOPA would wreak on the Internet's domain name system.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) had a bully pulpit as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee and he used it to maximum effect as he emerged as one of SOPA's biggest opponents on Capitol Hill.
The Sandia National Laboratories is part of the U.S. Department of Energy. Although it started in nuclear weapons research, the lab has expanded to include infrastructure security and cybersecurity research and thus has major cred when it weighs in on issues related to Internet functionality. So it was that Sandia's director of computer sciences and information system, Len Napolitano, offered anti-SOPA activists an important new ally when he predicted that the proposed legislation would "negatively impact U.S. and global cybersecurity and Internet functionality."