Google will be joining the online protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) by posting a link on its search page that will direct readers to a statement explaining its opposition to the antipiracy bills currently under review in both houses of Congress. Declan McCullagh and Greg Sandoval of CNET cite a Google representative who says that
Like many businesses, entrepreneurs, and Web users, we oppose these bills because there are smart, targeted ways to shut down foreign rogue Web sites without asking American companies to censor the Internet. So tomorrow we will be joining many other tech companies to highlight this issue on our U.S. home page.
Google joins other Internet sites who will be protesting SOPA and PIPA tomorrow, Wednesday, January 18. Aggregator news site Reddit and also Wikipedia will be darkening their sites in protest. Reddit will be down from 8am till 8pm Wednesday and Wikipedia for 24 hours starting Tuesday evening, a particularly “dramatic” step. Users of WordPress, the popular blogging platform, can add a widget to their blog that will display a banner in support of the protest. The Cheezburger network whose sites include The Daily What and Fail Blog will also be joining the blackout, says the Washington Post. In addition, a “billion pages” are no longer visible on the document service Scribd and Craigslist has a notice saying “Stop SOPA and PIPA.”
While House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has said that voting on SOPA will be shelved in the House until “consensus” is built, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) still plans to go forward with a vote on PIPA on January 24. While both bills once had wide bipartisan support — both are backed by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) — an intense campaign by Google, Facebook and other online giants seems to be working, with even the Obama administration indicating that it will not support the two bills.
In their current formats, SOPA and PIPA would mean that one could mention a site that contains illegal content (such as The Pirate Bay), but not link to it. The tech industry has contended that the controls SOPA and PIPA would give to the US Department of Justice to clamp down on Internet piracy fail to take into account how the Internet works and that both bills will, therefore, seriously hinder the innovation and creativity fostered on the Internet.
How Will the Blackout and Protests Affect Us?
As TechCrunch observes, there has been “some public hand-wringing about how far tech companies should go to take a stand against SOPA and PIPA.” CloudFlare is taking a less extreme approach than Wikipedia, by “allowing sites to black out specific content in protest, without entirely ‘going dark.’”
It does feel as if we’ll all be participating in a web-wide experiment by going for 24 hours without Wikipedia. Noting that the “web is a big place with lots of other reliable sources,” Rebecca Greenfield at The Atlantic Wire says that “we’ll manage” though we will be “annoyed” at not having Wikipedia’s familiar pages to check. On the theory that absence makes the heart grow fonder, perhaps tomorrow’s blackout will, indeed, underscore for us how much we value the Internet and the resources it has made so easily and quickly available to us, and make it all the more clear why we need to campaign to keep the Internet’s freedom alive.
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Photo by Robert Scoble