Websites Going Black To Protest Anti-Piracy Bills In Congress
January 18, 2012
Los Angeles Times
By Andrea Chang and Tiffany Hsu
“This bill is about more than just anti-piracy. It’s about censorship of the Internet.” –KTRN
What would the world be like without the Internet? Fire up your browser and see what you can’t do.
In the first strike of its kind, hundreds of popular sites such as Wikipedia, Reddit and Boing Boing were scheduled to temporarily shut down Wednesday to protest a pair of anti-piracy bills that they say essentially amount to censorship of the Internet.
The prospect of a day without the websites set off a frenzy in the hours leading up to the strike, which was slated to begin Tuesday night, with parents urging their children to do their homework early and tech-savvy users posting instructions for how to access cached Wikipedia pages during the blackout.
“If Wikipedia is going down, I’m going down with it,” wrote Twitter user Mariellesmind, who was among thousands that filled the microblogging site with panicked, profanity-filled tweets.
“Terrified about the Wikipedia outage,” tweeted Los Angeles resident Chandra Moore. “I was told to use an encyclopedia if I have a question, but I won’t even be able to Wiki what one is.”
The Internet’s biggest power players, including Google, Facebook and YouTube, were planning to stay up and running, but the shutdown of the other sites and the ensuing anxiety underscored the breadth and influence of the world’s Internet companies, as well as Americans’ dependence on them.
Strike organizers say the online grass-roots campaign is intended to inform the public about the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act, which aim to crack down on foreign websites that traffic in pirated movies, music and counterfeit goods.
Internet companies have broadened the debate, recasting it from one about piracy and digital copyright protection to one about Internet freedom. Calling the bills well intentioned but seriously flawed, they say SOPA in the House and PIPA in the Senate are threats to free speech that could stifle the Internet economy, drive up legal costs and lead to censorship or the shutdown of some websites.
The proposed legislation “creates a punishing Internet censorship regime and exports it to the rest of the world,” said a statement on Boing Boing, a group blogging site.