Readers who are regulars at Reddit or who closely follow technology news may have heard that the social news site is leading the way in fermenting what’s being called an Internet strike against two destructive, anti-Internet bills being pushed by Hollywood on Capitol Hill (the so-called “Stop Online Piracy Act” and the “Protect IP Act”). The bills have been moving towards the respective floors of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House for months with little public debate.
Thanks to the efforts of an unusually diverse and strong grassroots coalition comprised of progressives, conservatives, and libertarians, support for these ill-conceived bills is finally on the wane.
But the fight is not over yet.
Last Tuesday, Reddit’s administrators threw down the gauntlet and announced that on Wednesday, January 18th, they would be blacking out the site — in other words, going on strike — from 8 AM Eastern until 8 PM Eastern:
We’re as addicted to reddit as the rest of you. Many of you stand with us against PIPA/SOPA, but we know support for a blackout isn’t unanimous. We’re not taking this action lightly. We wouldn’t do this if we didn’t believe this legislation and the forces behind it were a serious threat to reddit and the Internet as we know it. Blacking out reddit is a hard choice, but we feel focusing on a day of action is the best way we can amplify the voice of the community.
As we have seen yet again in the fight against PIPA/SOPA, the best ideas come from our community. We all have just over a week to figure out exactly what to do with our extra cycles on January 18th. Please join us in the discussion in the comments here and in /r/SOPA.
Since Reddit announced its decision to go on strike, dozens of other sites and organizations have announced that they will join in the blackout. The list now includes Boing Boing, the Cheezburger network, Minecraft, Wikipedia, and hundreds of other websites. Mozilla, Tucows, the Free Software Foundation, Free Press, and many other organizations are also taking part.
We at NPI have decided to join in the strike. On Wednesday, January 18th, our normal home page, The Advocate (this blog!), In Brief, and Pacific NW Portal will be blacked out and replaced by an anti-SOPA/PIPA action center. The action center will also be prominently featured on Permanent Defense and the Olympia Newsriver.
In addition, we’ll be posting strike updates throughout the day on our Twitter and Facebook feeds, encouraging all NPI supporters and followers to join us in expressing our opposition to these bills to Congress.
We are strongly opposed to SOPA and PIPA because either of these bills, if passed, would endanger Internet freedom. And that’s something that matters to us more than just about anything else. Before NPI existed physically or legally, it existed as an idea on the Web. Like other netroots organizations and tech startups, NPI’s roots are virtual. If the Internet hadn’t been invented, NPI would never have come into being. The same goes for the rest of the netroots community.
The Internet is the first modern medium for communication that is not controlled by gatekeepers who run Hollywood studios, theater chains, broadcast media empires, big box stores, record labels, and publishing houses. That is because it is decentralized and open: there is no central authority dictating who gets access. Compared to other media, the barriers for entry are low. Anyone who wants to set up a site of some kind, or participate in a community set up by someone else, can do so without needing a ton of money or connections.
Media executives have long viewed the existence of the Internet as a threat to their power. That’s why they have been trying to sneak legislation through Congress that would allow them to use the Department of Justice as their own private law firm. They want the ability to censor the Internet as they see fit. And that means attaining the power to disconnect websites without due process.
We cannot let the MPAA, RIAA, and the media conglomerates they speak for win. We have to stop these bills. Nothing less than our First Amendment freedoms — freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom to petition — are at stake. We need to set a good example for the world to follow. That means keeping the Internet open and democratic, as it was designed to be.
We invite you to join us in this day of protest by contacting your members of Congress and letting them know you are strongly opposed to both SOPA and PIPA.