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Blackout Day

When rumors started flying around the internet that companies like Google and Facebook were considering a coordinated blackout to protest SOPA and PIPA, I eagerly hoped for a complete takedown of the sites. That hasn’t happened to nearly the degree I wanted, and I fear it won’t be enough to make the point. However, some sites are going pretty far. The English Wikipedia site, while not down, is throwing a black anti-SOPA message up to obscure every page as soon as it loads. (Non-English versions have a black banner at the top of every page urging readers to consider the devastating effects of SOPA/PIPA, too.) If you visit the homepage of WordPress.com, every “hot blog post” has been replaced with a link to an anti-SOPA page.

I wrote a letter to my representatives about SOPA/PIPA last month and published it here on my blog for everyone to see. I’ve been following the issue since October, though I’ve been busy with life and haven’t commented on it much except to share articles I’ve read about it on Facebook and Twitter. I didn’t think to save the links to those articles for later. However, I’d like to take a moment, on this day that many companies have staged protests against the SOPA and PIPA bills, to share with you some of the better articles I’ve seen in the past couple of days.

I’d like to start with Gizmodo’s explanation of SOPA (and PIPA) and the potential fallout of the bill. It succinctly explains what the bill is, how that will affect businesses big and small (including how it will enable big companies to stifle smaller competitors), and how that, in turn, will affect the average internet user. If you’re not familiar with more than the name, this is a good starting point for understanding why big internet players such as Facebook, Google, and Yahoo! are against the bill… as well as organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union.

Furthermore, Global Voices Online, an organization which devotes itself to spreading citizens media across linguistic boundaries, has a lot to say about how the effects of SOPA/PIPA would reverberate around the world. Authoritarian regimes use methods like those required or encouraged by the SOPA/PIPA bills to censor the free circulation of ideas, and if the USA starts doing it they can point to us and claim to have been justified.

Many of the people responsible for the rise and development of the internet have spoken out against SOPA and PIPA in an open letter to congress. These include people who wrote the code that powers it and designed the technology that have made it faster and more useful.

Many petitions have been signed and today many sites have “gone dark” to one degree or another, but not everyone expects this to be an effective tactic in the long run. In response to a popular article titled Dear Congress: It’s No Longer OK To Not Know How The Internet Works, a web site called The Information Diet posted one titled Dear Internet: It’s No Longer OK to Not Know How Congress Works. The infographic it links to is currently unavailable because it’s hosted on a site that did a full-on anti-SOPA blackout, but I can’t wait to read it because the article makes good points about how congressional representatives get their information. The author encourages us to learn more about how the system works and then take the slow and steady steps to change it so that the voices of the people can be heard over the lobbyists.

It seems, however, that 13 senators have announced opposition to PIPA as a result of the internet blackouts. While undoubtedly a short-term effect (the lobbyists won’t stop just because they have been foiled this time), it’s comforting to know that it hasn’t all been for nothing. How much more effective would it have been, though, if big names like Google and Facebook really HAD gone offline in protest?

I come into this late today. I’m 14 hours ahead of the east coast of the USA right now and was especially tired last night because it followed my first day back at the elementary school, playing with the balls of energy we call 7 year olds, so I slept through most of the SOPA/PIPA protesting. (Much to my sorrow.) But I don’t think that matters too much. Because this isn’t over.

Edit (about 6 hours later): This video does a very good job of describing the intent and flaws in SOPA/PIPA using diagrams and layman’s terms.

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