What’s happening? Has the Internet gone back to black?
If you tried to Wiki anything for work or school today, you might have been slapped with a big black skin. No, Wikipedia didn’t decide to shut down completely for no apparent reason. And no, this has got nothing to do with that time when Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia) publicly asked for support in form of donations.
And what about those of you who tried to get some laughs from Matthew Inman’s The Oatmeal today? Were you disappointed that all you got was one measly GIF against a big black..nothing? Help, Matthew! Help!
Here’s what really happened: Most of these websites are “blacking out” in protest against two bills that the U.S. Congress want to pass, the Stop Piracy Online Act (SOPA) the Protect IP Act (PIPA). Click here for the full text of the SOPA bill (as of 15th of January 2012).
Whether you’re for it or against it, this is exactly what will happen if the bills were approved of. It means the ultimate censorship of the Internet. The bills would give the Justice Department the power to go after foreign websites willfully committing or facilitating intellectual property theft – “rogue” sites like The Pirate Bay.
The government would be able to force U.S.-based companies, like Internet service providers, credit card companies and online advertisers, to cut off ties with those sites.
So like it or not, hundreds of your favourite websites (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Wikipedia, 9gag, ICanHazCheezBurger, The Oatmeal, etc) will all be sitting in the crosshair of the SOPA and the PIPA. They will all be bulldozed. Would it matter to you? Can you imagine your virtual life without it?
When you really stop to think about it (and now you can since some sites have already “blacked out”), do we really need another draconian act against the Internet? It’s not very far off from “the great firewall of China”, now is it? Hence, many websites have begun shutting its digital doors for about 24 hours today, 18th of January 2012, in protest of the bills. They are:
2. Tor Project
5. iSchool at Syracuse University
11. ICanHazCheezburger Network (which has more than 50 sister sites)
13. Good Old Games
15. Free Press
17. XDA Developers
20. The Oatmeal
..with more to come!
If you too feel like the Internet is the one and only place where these blockages shouldn’t happen because of it being an open source and an “endless well of wonderful knowledge”, then join the largest online protest in history here.
Help stop the bills from being passed and save the Internet as we know it!