Major tech players like Google and Wikipedia are taking stands against SOPA and driving the message home by censoring their own sites.
Today I wanted to go to Wikipedia and read about the boomerang, or Michael Simmons (the first two pages that came up when I clicked “Random Article” on Wikipedia yesterday), but I can’t because today the site is protesting SOPA. Here’s the SOPA rundown that I wrote about two weeks ago, in case you missed it, and here’s the update:
There has been some progress towards a compromise in a bill that fights online piracy without censoring the Internet, but the bill hasn’t gone away completely. To raise awareness of the issue and get the general population mobilized to contact their congressmen (and senators for the sister bill, PIPA), Reddit announced that the site would be going black for twelve hours on January 18th. The intent of the blackout is to show the extent of the government’s potential power if SOPA passed, and if copyrighted materials were found on any website.
Skeptics of the protest point out that the majority of Reddit’s community is already very Internet savvy and is very aware of SOPA. How would blacking out the website actually raise new awareness? One Forbes journalist pointed out that to really grab people’s attention, and to give the tech giants an opportunity to put their money where their mouths are, Facebook and Google should follow Reddit’s example.
On January 16th, Wikipedia joined the cause and released a statement saying that they put a vote to their community over the previous three days about whether Wikipedia should blackout with Reddit on the 18th. The overwhelming response was yes. However, only English Wikipedia will be blacked out (3.8 million articles), but for a full 24 hours.
Twitter’s chief executive Dick Costolo responded to the news of Wikipedia’s blackout by tweeting “Closing a global business in reaction to single-issue national politics is foolish.” Throughout all of the SOPA proceedings, however, Twitter has remained a staunch opponent of the SOPA and PIPA legislation.
Later, Costolo clarified that his comment wasn’t a judgment call on Wikipedia’s decision and that Twitter would not be blacking out on January 18th. He also invited users to keep watching for ways that Twitter would be protesting SOPA and PIPA in the future. Despite Twitter’s lack of participation, TwitPic, the picture hosting site that operates with Twitter, will be participating in the blackout.
Jumping into the mix, Google announced yesterday that it will in fact protest SOPA on their search page, just not by going black. Keeping with Google’s minimalist design mantra, Google said it will only have a link on its search page stating its stance on the antipiracy bill in Congress. Other protesting sites that have joined the fray? To name a few: Boing Boing, the Cheezburger network, WordPress, Scribd, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).
But what exactly is the status of SOPA in Congress? Many blogs have been trying to say that it’s “dead,” but in reality, the vote has only been delayed. The latest amendment has removed the DNS blocking that was previously one of the biggest points of opposition from these big-hitting Internet companies. It wasn’t a complete victory, however, as the DNS piece of the bill is just “under review,” potentially to be added again at a later date. Also, a hearing was scheduled so Congress could question those more closely related to the Internet and learn the extent of the impact the bill would have. Invitees to talk to Congress include Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian.
However, that hearing has been postponed due to majority leader Eric Cantor’s latest assurance that SOPA will not be brought to a vote until there is a real consensus behind it. Without the rush to get the bill to a vote, Cantor sees the importance of hearing from the tech industry, but all involved parties can now take a breath.
Many other minor website owners want to join the cause and blackout their sites as well. Zachary Johnson created the STOP SOPA code that website owners can copy and paste in their own HTML and their site will be black, with a link to follow to get active about opposing SOPA and PIPA.
Online piracy is a real threat to many Internet businesses. However, censorship of the Internet can only have negative consequences for the people that matter most – you, the customer. Host your website with a company that doesn’t support piracy, and doesn’t support SOPA.