SOPA and PIPA Protests: The Government Pokes the Sleeping Lion

20 Jan

Wired online protests

The government is dealing with a whole new breed of opposition this month as it attempts to pass the house bills called SOPA(Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA(Protect IP Act). The Internet community has been known to be a group largely apathetic towards activism, but as major Internet hubs like Imgur, Wikipedia, and reddit go down , Internet junkies everywhere are realizing how these bills are greatly affecting their everyday lives.

 These bills are for the purpose of curbing online piracy by giving the government the license to shut down or control websites they feel are dealing incorrectly with illegal streaming or piracy. Opponents of these bills believe this infringes upon free speech and is considered by many to be Internet censorship. PIPA would cost the government 47 million dollars over the course of the next four years for training of 22 special agents and 26 support staff who would be in charge of the new measures that would be put into place.

WordPress allowed users to opt for full-blackout or to add a banner to their pages

WordPress’ Freshly Pressed Section All Blacked Out

Most major websites have taken an extremely negative stance on these bills and tried to raise awareness by completely blacking out their websites on January 18th. “Right now, the U.S. Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open Internet. For 24 hours, to raise awareness, we are blacking out Wikipedia.” This is the official statement from Wikipedia when users attempt to open the website.

More than 7,000 websites have participated in this blackout; however, the four Internet superpowers; Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google are remaining open, but have stated they are against these bills. Many protesters have seen the Internet superpowers’ refusal to not shut down as a weak stance. One online blogger stated the reason Facebook and Twitter are not closing down is because both are afraid of losing user activity permanently as a result.

Google protested by blacking out their logo

“Both companies know that the effect of a blackout on user activity will depend on what the other company does. For example, if Twitter is blacked out, Twitter users will migrate to Facebook and vice versa.” (Benjamin Bohr)

It is a valid opinion, however, the blackout only will be truly successful if at least one of these major superpowers blacks out before the bills go out again. Imgur and Wikipedia do hold quite a large sway over a large community; however, people don’t use these sites exclusively on a daily basis for basic daily function. Were one of the superpowers to black out, it would disrupt people’s lives so drastically that many more would be up in arms.

Wikipedia took the protest one step further by blacking out the entire website, at least for America.

Only time can tell what the true effects of these blackouts will be and if it was enough to destroy these Internet controlling bills. However, this will certainly be a day remembered by the Internet users obsessed for years to come. These bills will leave the Internet open to the government’s control and take away what people have always known as the one true open source of information. People wishing to help fight these bills should go to and contact their senator to show their opposition to these bills.


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