If you try to open your favorite internet sites on the 18th & find it’s not working, don’t panic. It may be that the site is simply participating in the SOPA/Protect IP Blackout. For those who haven’t been following this bill, January 18 is the date when Congress will be voting on the SOPA bill. In an unprecedented act of internet solidarity, several major sites will be blacking out their sites on that day to raise awareness of the bill. So when you open up Reddit, instead of getting the latest news, you will instead see an image similar to this:
Reddit was only the first site (please correct me if I’m wrong) to announce they would be completely blacking out their site on January 18 for twelve hours, starting at 8 am. Instead of their usual site, they will be showing information about the bill, as well as resources for viewers to voice their opinions on the matter. The goal of this blackout is to get the message about this bill out there, because so few people actually seem to know what’s going on. Since then, several other sites have joined in the blackout. Among these are:
- Mojang: Founder Notch tweeted that all Mojang & Minecraft servers would be going black. Given that Minecraft alone has over 16 million registered users, that’s a lot of attention for this bill.
- Destructoid: One of the most widely read video game blogs will also be going black. This blog averages about 100,000 visits a day.
- The Cheezburger Network: CEO Ben Huh tweeted that all of Cheezburger’s 100+ sites will be going black. With properties such as Lolcat, Fail Blog & Know Your Meme, some of these sites receive as many as one million hits a day. You may also remember that Ben Huh is the man who organized the boycott of GoDaddy when the company came out supporting SOPA, which had GoDaddy quickly reversing their opinion in a matter of days.
- Major League Gaming: Given that pretty much all of MLG content is streaming video games, which would be in direct violation of SOPA, it’s no surprise that MLG announced their sites would be going black.
- Anonymous: Calling it Operation Blackout, the infamous group may have been the first to call for blackouts. The Anonymous Twitter account will go black, as will probably most of the Anonymous network. The Twitter account also has a link to a petition page where you can sign up your own website to go black. http://sopastrike.com/on-strike/ I wouldn’t trust all the official site names listed, however.
The most current list of confirmed blackout companies I could find was from Google+, http://operationsopa.blogspot.com/2012/01/list-of-companiesorganizations-that-are.html
Looking at the list, a major problem with this plan becomes obvious: most are smaller, niche sites. While it’s great that companies like Reddit & Mojang are putting their money where their mouth is (literally), chances are that most of the people who use these sites already know about SOPA & are likely against it. So what good does it do to talk about this issue with people who already know about it & are trying to fix it as well?
What the movement really needs is for major sites that almost everyone uses to go black. But as last I heard, most of these sites are still on the fence.
- Wikipedia: Looks the most promising for a full-blown blackout. Co-founder Jimmy Wales commented that he was in favor of a blackout, but for a site of that size, organizing for the site to go completely black takes time. Personally, I hope they do. I know that I’m on Wikipedia several times a day. In early 2011, Wikipedia was listed by Google Inc. as the fifth most popular website, with about 12 billion worldwide pageviews per month.
- Google: With the US search engine alone being the most visited site on the web, Google is in a powerful position to bring news about SOPA to hundreds of thousands of people who don’t know about it. Given that it also owns some of the most popular sites, such as Youtube & Blogger, there are many avenues for them to get the message across. However, although Google has come out as anti-SOPA, they’ve yet to definitely state if they will be blacking out.
- Facebook: Oh, the possibilities. However, as with Google, while Facebook is clearly anti-SOPA, they haven’t given any real comment towards if they’ll be participating in the blackout. But can you imagine the outrage from all the users who live their lives on Facebook when they can’t get to their site anymore?
It is understandable that for larger companies, they stand to lose a lot of money by shutting down their services for an entire day (although arguably it’s a lot less than when they get shut down permanently if the bill passes). Some people have proposed a “grey-out.” Instead of shutting down service completely, links, images, videos & other media can be displayed on these sites to inform people of the issue. This may be a more viable option for some.
But what about the average person? How can you get the message out to others who may not know about it? There are options. Those with Facebook accounts can find SOPA Blackout groups, which encourage you to change your profile picture to one like the one I’ve shown above to let their friends know about it. Several Reddit posts have links to some groups. Fellow WordPress users can download a plug-in on this site that will allow you to blackout your blogs for a set amount of time (WordPress has commented that while it is anti-SOPA, the site won’t be blacking out).
As someone who spends most of their time on the internet, I will certainly be interested to see which sites go black on the 18th. It’s my hope that major sites will spread the news about this bill, causing citizens to voice their opposition. It’s obvious that Congress is trying to sneak this bill passed America. How many ads have you actually seen about this bill? I’ve only seen one, & it was pro-SOPA… on the Fox News Network. I know, big surprise.
Hopefully this really will be the Great Internet Strike of 2012 that some news companies are already referring to it as. This is what we’re fighting for: freedom of speech. Nowhere but the internet could something like this happen. Only through a source as instantaneous & vast as the internet can an idea travel across the globe in back within a few hours.