Over the weekend, the Stop Online Piracy Act was dealt a major blow as the legislation was delayed until "outstanding concerns" have been addressed. SOPA will not move forward in the House as the official vote was been cancelled and the bill has been yanked from the floor. Representative and SOPA opponent Darrell Issa cheered this as a win for the internet community - but he warned that SOPA's Senate cousin PIPA is still a major concern.
He's right, and SOPA is still a concern as well. While it has been delayed, SOPA is not dead (just ask SOPA author Lamar Smith). It is entirely possible that SOPA could resurrect once a "consensus is reached." SOPA must be destroyed while vulnerable.
And presumably, that's why many sites will still participate in a scheduled blackout on Wednesday, January 18th to protest the legislation.
Do you support sites like Wikipedia going dark in protest of SOPA and PIPA? Or do you feel that it's the wrong move? Let us know in the comments.
Here are some of the bigger sites that will officially go dark on the 18th:
- Failblog, rest of the Cheezburger Network
- Boing Boing
- Riot Games
- Epic Games
- 38 Studios
- Red 5 Studios
- Google will be changing their homepage
- Tor Project
- iSchool at Syracuse University
- Good Old Games
- Free Press
- XDA Developers
Smaller sites can get in on the protest as well. A site, sopastrike.com, has been set up by the Fight for the Future non-profit. It allows anyone with a website to join the strike. The site's list of all registered blackout participants contains hundreds of small websites.
This site has been blocked in protest of the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) two bills which will allow the government to censor the internet. Find out more at americancensorship.org or the video below. This website will return at 8pm.
It will also show this video about SOPA and PIPA. If you haven't already seen it, it's a nice video that explains the dangers of the legislation:
If you want a little more control on your blackout, you can try this other WordPress plugin.
Googler Pierre Far made a timely Google+ post Monday evening, coyly referencing the fact that sometimes webmasters feel the need to take their site offline for a day because of "server maintenance or as political protest." He mentions this action as the most important one to take if you plan on having your site go dark for a day:
1. The most important point: Webmasters should return a 503 HTTP header for all the URLs participating in the blackout (parts of a site or the whole site). This helps in two ways:
a. It tells us it's not the "real" content on the site and won't be indexed.
b. Because of (a), even if we see the same content (e.g. the “site offline” message) on all the URLs, it won't cause duplicate content issues.
2. Googlebot's crawling rate will drop when it sees a spike in 503 headers. This is unavoidable but as long as the blackout is only a transient event, it shouldn't cause any long-term problems and the crawl rate will recover fairly quickly to the pre-blackout rate. How fast depends on the site and it should be on the order of a few days.
You can see the entire list of tips here.
If you don't own a site and want to spread the word of the blackout via social media, you can use the hashtag #sopastrike or #stopsopa all day. BlackoutSopa.org also allows for you to change your Twitter pic to one of three images - either a smaller "Stop SOPA" banner under your pic, a total "STOP SOPA" image or a simple blackout.
There is still a day until the SOPA blackout, which means the window is closing for other big-name sites to join in. Having Reddit and Wikipedia down is going to be a huge deal, and it would only get bigger if other social sites joined the blackout party.
But it appears that not everybody is joining the party. In response to Radar correspondent Alex Howard asking him if he had the "cojones" to join Jimmy Wales and Wikipedia in the blackout, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo had this to say:
@digiphile Not shutting down a service doesn't equal not taking the proper stance on an issue. We've been very clear about our stance
Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales agrees that Twitter should not go dark in protest -
@dickc Can you confirm your support for Wikipedia's protest? I agree with you that twitter should not go dark.
He makes a distinction - that Twitter needs to be used to organize the protests. It's a no-brainer that shutting down giant social media sites like Twitter and Facebook would severely hamper the ability to communicate about the protest. But if the purpose of the blackout is awareness, to send out a warning message, then nothing would be as jolting as seeing a site like Twitter go dark for an entire day.
Not all SOPA opponents feel that a blackout it a good way to tackle the unpopular legislation. As PandoDaily's Paul Carr writes,
Arguing that a one-day closure reminds everyone of the importance of net freedom is like burning down one church to underscore the importance of the First Amendment for all of the others. Even if the shut-down did send an effective message, it’s still not Wikipedia’s call to make. If you ask the entire world for money to stay live, then you owe the entire world the courtesy of staying live, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
He also stresses that Wikipedia should stay neutral on policy issues, as they are dedicated to staying impartial in every other facet of the site. Jimmy Wales has responded to this concern as well:
@andrewsmatt Articles must remain neutral. The community need not, not when the future of the Internet is at stake.
So the English version of Wikipedia will be inaccessible for the purposes of article retrieval from 5am GMT to 5pm GMT on Wednesday. All visitors will see an open letter asking that they contact their representatives about SOPA/PIPA. Wales told the Telegraph:
"The general sentiment seemed to be that US law, as it impacts the internet, can affect everyone."
Do you think that Wikipedia has a duty to stay neutral on the SOPA/PIPA issue? Or do they have a duty to take a stance because the legislation threatens the internet as a whole? Let us know in the comments.
Although SOPA was dealt a crushing blow this weekend, do you think that the demonstration is necessary to show people the real cost of internet censorship, so maybe legislation like SOPA won't get this far in the future? Or do you think that blacking out a popular site for an entire day is too much, or even counterproductive? Do you think that it will work in swaying any SOPA supporters? Let us know in the comments.