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Center on Public Diplomacy: Silicon Valley's Foreign Policy

Author: Ernest J. Wilson III
October 2012

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The explosion of Silicon Valley and social media in the last decade has large implications for U.S. foreign policy going forward.

On Wednesday, January 18, thirty-one members of the United States Congress were known to oppose the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its sibling, the Protect IP Act (PIPA).

By the next day, the number of Representatives and Senators opposed or leaning towards opposing the bills skyrocketed to one hundred and one. And by the day after that, the bills' lead sponsor pulled them from consideration.

How did such an abrupt policy transformation happen? How did the White House come to issue a statement opposing the bills, even if it meant alienating a traditional Democratic constituency—Hollywood?

SOPA and PIPA were quashed because Silicon Valley, at long last, came together and started acting like the information age colossus that it has been for a long time—but had somehow collectively failed to realize.

The SOPA defeat engineered by tech titans and their online friends and followers was much more than a two-bill success. Instead, it is the belated but finally-here harbinger of the leaders of the new economy realizing just how influential they can and must be regarding policy issues.

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