Scent of jasmine

So how many times did you accidentally try to open Wikipedia today?

If you use the internet at all, you’ve probably heard a lot of grumbling about some new bills up before Congress and the Senate: SOPA and PIPA. If you need more clarification, check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s explanation here. If you’re short on time, here’s the 10-word version: Overreaching powers. No due process. Vague language. Stifling free speech.

So what does all this have to do with jasmine?

It’s time for a field trip.

We waste a lot of time on the web. Pinterest, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube: it’s hard to imagine life without them. But what if there was no life without them–literally?

Knowledge is power. And the ability to freely transmit that knowledge is so powerful it can threaten and topple whole dictatorial regimes, infrastructures that have been in place for decades.

Remember last January? In an strangely ironic twist, SOPA and PIPA are coming under review almost exactly one year after last year’s so-called Arab Spring, a series of uprisings directed at dismantling the dictatorial government structures in several Middle Eastern nations. Unlike many similar movements, limited by word-of-mouth, the uprisings of this “Jasmine Revolution” rapidly gained momentum and followers thanks to the internet, spreading across social media like Facebook and Twitter like wildfire.

Government regimes tried to crack down on the rebellion by shutting down sites, hacking pages, and instituting media blackouts, but it kept on going, the phenomenon reaching out globally. As one writer put it, “news got out—showing how much the dictatorial tactics of the past are out of touch with the new cyber world.”

One year later, we have SOPA/PIPA–being considered by a democratic government, no less.

Who’s out of touch?

Online censorship is common in many closed-door governmental regimes. But the reality is this: many of our fellow global citizens are kept powerless due to the inaccessibility of the means of communication.Whether it’s poverty or outright censorship that keeps users in the dark, it’s time to shed some light on the issue.

Whoever holds the keys to communication holds the power. If overreaching laws cause us to lose the ability to freely express ourselves, we lose much more than the ability to transmit the meme of the week. After all, if the inaccessibility of information means we can’t educate ourselves and others, we’re no longer able to learn, reason, discern, understand–and guide our own destiny.

Take a stand. Get informed. Contact your senator or representative and make your views clear.

There’s jasmine in the air.


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