A Digital Army of Darkness
Today is a dark day. And I don’t mean just because it’s overcast and rainy outside in Charleston. Today is the day of blackouts. Many of the web’s most popular sites are going black today to protest SOPA (Stop Internet Piracy Act in the House) and PIPA (Protect IP Act in the Senate). Although they haven’t completely blacked out their website (I’m not sure the world could make it 24 hours without Google..I can barely make it 24 minutes) Google has shown protest to the bills by covering its logo with a black censor stripe, coupled with a message urging users to “Tell Congress: Please don’t censor the web!” Wikipedia’s English sites have gone completely offline, taking a more apocalyptic approach with the message “Imagine A World Without Free Knowledge.” Craigslist’s red, white, and blue themed blackout page includes a snide postscript that states “corporate paymasters, KEEP THOSE CLAMMY HANDS OFF THE INTERNET!” A number of other, smaller sites have joined in the protest as well, including Reddit, Wired, BoingBoing, and WordPress.
Each of these sites has been asking their users to write to their Congress people to oppose SOPA and PIPA, with Google sponsoring an online petition which has the likelihood to garner hundreds of thousands of digital signatures (it’s already up to 3.3K +1’s as of 11:22 am). Many individuals have even joined in the protest by “blacking out” their Facebook profiles and twitter accounts.
These bills have been controversial from the start, with many sites, such as Wired.com, likening the acts to “China’s ‘Great Firewall.’” The MPAA and Chris Dodd, who are in favor of the acts, have denounced the blackouts as “stunts” and “an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely on [the sites] for information and [who] use their services,” and I’m sure many college students who rely on Wikipedia would agree.
Whether you’re for or against the bills, you have to admit that the grassroots response across the web has been unlike any other. Voting on the bills starts January 24th. With an Internet response this passionate, it’ll be very interesting to see how this all plays out.