The Internet Freedom Movement from SOPA-PIPA to Net Neutrality: A Descriptive Analysis of a Social Movement in the Digital Age

Thesis completed in fulfillment of a Masters in Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, May 2016.

This thesis takes an inside look at the Internet freedom movement, a loose coalition of groups working together to promote an open and free Internet. By looking at the movement through both the lens of traditional social movement theory, as well as new digitally-enabled collective action theory, I am able to conduct a deeper analysis of the processes of the movement. Whereas past studies only focused on a single episode within this social movement, this descriptive study looks at the movement as a whole, across three episodes, in an effort to better understand both the movement’s past and future actions.

For this study, I analyzed the political context and allies, tactics, coalition relationships, and network structures of the coalitions that have formed around the flashpoints of online censorship, surveillance reform, and net neutrality. By conducting a longitudinal study from SOPA-PIPA to the Day We Fight Back Against Surveillance to net neutrality, I was able to discern that the tactical strategies and roles played by a core group of participating organizations has increasingly coalesced as certain political opportunities arise.

Click through here to continue reading on, see graphs and visualizations, and to discover what was learned through this study.