January 18th, 2012
Wednesday, January 18th, 2012 hallmarks an unprecedented online protest by major websites against the now infamous Stop Online Piracy Act (known as SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). It is a firm belief of many Internet-based companies that while these bills state good intentions of stopping online piracy, they give entirely too much power to private agencies—and essentially the government—to censor and shut down websites without due process. These proposed bills are causing an uproar in the Internet community and have been a huge topic of debate for quite a few months now. People against the act likened the proposed punishments to censorship laws in China and consider the bills to be anti-liberty. It is quoted that the bill is “badly written and open to abuse.” This is the main concern of websites as these proposed punishments for copyright infringments have dire consequences even for websites that do their best to pull copyrighted material from their sites where users post. To fuel the flames, experts against the bill were conspicuously not invited to the previous hearings.
Due to the severe potential punishments, the bills are considered by many experts to be “destruction to the Internet as we know it.”
In protest, Internet giants such as Google, Wikipedia, Craigslist, Reddit, Wired, and reportedly over 7,000 other websites are changing the layouts of their sites, using “censored” logos, or in the case of Wikipedia and Reddit, shutting down their sites for a day. (See for yourself; do a search in Wikipedia.) The goal of the protest is to bring awareness to the potential dangers of the proposed bills. This news is even on the front page of the New York Times website.
Millions of anti-SOPA supporters even prior to today’s blackout have been protesting and making people aware of the dangers of the bill via their social networking platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. This backlash has caused a stir even amongst the governement supporters of the bill, to a point where they are now changing the language. Support of the bill is losing steam and some senators are backing out of supporting the bill. This is a great attestment to the power of social media and the interactive community.
Snapshot of Google’s homepage today with the censored logo. Clicking the logo takes to you this page which gives opportunities to voice your opinions.
Snapshot of Craigslist’s homepage today.
Snapshot of Reddit’s homepage today.
Snapshot of Wired.com’s homepage today.
Though the recent news about the bill being revised is a monumental move, anti-SOPA supporters feel that this is not enough and these acts should be removed altogether. And the bill still has support from major industries, namely the motion picture industry. Time will tell how this will pan out but it goes without question that the power of the Internet community and social media is incredibly strong.
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