A strange thing has been happening lately. On political, commercial and social issues where people on the Internet are broadly united, the Internet is forcing opponents to back down.
Has the Internet become invincible?
Hardly. But as a force in the world, the Internet seems to be getting more powerful, thanks to the growing popularity and use of social networks.
Fifteen years ago, everybody used to say that the Internet was a powerful medium that could mount unstoppable opposition to big governments and corporations. It wasn't really true back then. But it seems to have become more true recently.
The most recent and stark example of this power is the whole SOPA and PIPA conflict.
The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) were broadly favored by Congress. These measures would have essentially given the federal government the ability to apply economic embargos on web sites accused of infringing copyright and also force ISPs to block access to those sites.
Normally legislation with this much backing in Washington would sail through to become the law of the land.
But a broad consensus formed on the Internet against the bills. The online protests and criticism of them grew so overwhelming that Congress actually backed down. So did a range of companies that initially supported the bill, including domain registrar Go Daddy.
A similar thing happens when the Internet is united against corporations.
Back in November, a researcher discovered facts about software sold by a company called Carrier IQ installed on many smartphone handset models that suggested the company was logging user actions and even keystrokes. The company sent a nastygram to the researcher threatening to sue.
Online outrage over the scandal forced Carrier IQ to drop their lawsuit and apologize to the researcher. It also caused the handset industry to disavow any relationship with the company and carriers like Sprint to announce that they were dropping the company like a hot rock.
Even non-profit organizations are not immune from being smacked down by the Internet.
A non-profit called Susan G. Komen for the Cure is the most well-known organization fighting breast cancer. Last month they cut funding to Planned Parenthood that paid for lower income women to have anti-cancer screenings. Many believed the reason was Planned Parenthood's inclusion of abortions as part of its range of reproductive healthcare services. The person most closely associated with the decision was Komen vice president Karen Handel.
Handel claims the decision to stop funds to Planned Parenthood resulted from a policy to not fund organizations facing criminal investigation, and not because of the abortion issue.
Regardless, Internet bloggers and social media users broadly denounced the move, and mounted incredible pressure against the organization and its vice president -- until they reversed their decision and Handel was forced to resign.
What's going on here? Has the Internet become an unstoppable force that wins all battles?
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