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 pro­gres­sive orga­ni­za­tions shut­ting down their sites include the Net­roots Foun­da­tion (which orga­nizes Net­roots Nation) and Raw Sto­ry.

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?

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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