We are less than a few hours away from the beginning of the biggest virtual grassroots protest the Internet has ever seen.
As you may have heard, the Web – or at least a sizable fraction of it – is going on strike to protest two destructive bills pending before Congress that would allow giant media conglomerates to start using the Department of Justice like their own private law firm, blacklisting and disconnecting any sites they accuse of perpetuating or facilitating copyright infringement. These bills are known as SOPA (the “Stop Online Piracy Act”) and PIPA (the “Protect Intellectual Property/IP Act”). They have many supporters in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
To raise awareness of the harm these bills would cause and highlight why they must be stopped, a number of major websites are planning to go on strike tomorrow, replacing their normal home pages with a call to action against SOPA and PIPA. Reddit launched the day of action last week, and it has since snowballed, with Wikipedia committing itself to participate yesterday. Since then, dozens more companies, nonprofits, and services have confirmed their intent to join in in some way, going either completely or partially dark.
WordPress (which powers many of NPI’s sites), The Internet Archive, Diaspora*, and Identi.ca are among the latest notable services to commit, joining thousands of other sites, including NPI’s network.
Other sites are staying online, but posting alerts or notices for their users, urging them to take action to defeat SOPA and PIPA. Craigslist has already placed a prominent alert on its many metro hubs. Scribd, which calls itself the world’s largest online document repository, plans to activate an anti-SOPA/PIPA popup that visitors to its network will see when attempting to access documents.
And OpenDNS, the world’s largest independent DNS provider, has announced it will join in the protest by randomly censoring results returned by the OpenDNS guide.
Google plans to participate in its own way. The company is not taking any services offline, but it will be putting a link to an anti-SOPA page on google.com (likely underneath the search box) which is bound to receive millions of clicks.
Meanwhile, the list of opponents to SOPA and PIPA in Congress continues to grow. Republican Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts declared his opposition today, as did Democratic Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio.
Washington’s two largest technology companies have not been at the forefront of the fight against SOPA and PIPA, but in statements sent to GeekWire today, Amazon and Microsoft have made it clear they are also opposed.
A number of prominent musicians, breaking with the RIAA and MPAA, have declared their solidarity with opponents of PIPA and SOPA, including Peter Gabriel and MC Hammer. Gabriel is blacking out his own site tomorrow as part of the strike.
In concert with the blackout, several groups are organizing in-person protests to lobby members of Congress. The New York Tech Meetup will be holding an emergency gathering tomorrow outside of the offices of Senators Kristen Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer (who are both cosponsors of PIPA) in Manhattan to urge them to reconsider their positions. A similar gathering is being planned in San Francisco.
Happily, the blackout appears to already be achieving its intended purpose. The MPAA, now chaired by former senator and Hollywood tool Chris Dodd, has just released a statement denouncing the protest, calling it “another gimmick, albeit a dangerous one, designed to punish elected and administration officials.”
So by choosing to exercise our First Amendment rights, we’re punishing our elected leaders? Causing mayhem? By that logic, what is the MPAA’s incessant lobbying of our elected leaders equivalent to? Torture?