TECH
01/09/2012 02:22 pm ET

'Boycott SOPA' Android App Helps Users Avoid Products Made By Anti-Piracy Bill Supporters

Opponents of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) have already shown they'll go to great lengths to oppose the controversial legislation by creating protest videos and transferring thousands of domains from pro-SOPA sites like GoDaddy.

Now, digital activists are taking anti-SOPA activism to the next level with a new Android app helps protesters hit SOPA supporters where it hurts: in the wallet.

Using barcode scanner technology popular with many bargain-finding apps, the 'Boycott SOPA' application scans products and checks them against a user-curated database of companies that currently support the Stop Online Piracy Act, thus "letting you know if buying that box of tissues is going to ruin the Internet or not," as ReadWriteWeb puts it.

The application itself is a pretty simple operation: users install the app on their Android phones and use like any other barcode scanner. If the product is distributed by a company that supports SOPA, a large red "X" will appear. A green check mark means the product's maker is not supporting the controversial bill.

The release of 'Boycott SOPA' follows criticism from some anti-SOPA activists who have argued that online activism, such as backlash on popular web-communities like Reddit, are ineffective at changing companies' stances on the legislation.

In fact, some say mass protest on the Internet may actually derail anti-SOPA efforts.

According to Adrian Chen on Gawker:

While great for short bursts of fundraising or getting out a timely message, purely digital mobs like Reddit or the hacktivist collective Anonymous are not well-suited for thoughtful, sustained participation in the political process. Fuck the 'Wisdom of the crowd.' The thinking of the internet hive mind is shallow and frantic, scrambling from one outrage to the next.

While the idea that refusing to buy certain products will influence anti-piracy legislation is an ambitious one, as Sebastian Anthony wrote on Extreme Tech, the application is a prime example of how technology is evolving to give more power to consumers.

According to Anthony:

Imagine for a second if you chopped "SOPA" from the name of the app and simply called it "Boycott." Imagine if there was an Android app that let you boycott whatever you wanted. If you had a personal beef with Coca-Cola - which has very long tendrils indeed - you could program the app to pick up anything produced by Coca-Cola and its manifold subsidiaries. Likewise, if you want to stick it to publishers or artists that refuse to make their songs available on Spotify, you could tell Boycott to block them.

So far, feedback for the app seems to be positive, with users expressing astonishment at companies identified to be SOPA supporters.

As one user wrote on the app's page in the Android Market: "I liked drinking coca cola too! Oh well I guess they just lost the pepsi challenge! How about a company email so you can complain when you find sopa supported item."

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