THE CAMPAIGN to defeat SOPA (Stop Online Privacy Act), and its sister bill PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act), is showing positive results.
Major Internet players like Google, Facebook, and Twitter continue to lobby against the bills. Led by Reddit, sites all over the Web have pledged to go dark this Wednesday, January 18, to protest the measures.
And on Saturday, the White House finally weighed in, raising concerns about the legislation and casting doubt about its passage.
The aim of SOPA/PIPA is to punish websites that violate copyright by posting or sharing protected material. However, the ways in which the bills propose to do this thwart due process and amount to a clear potential for Internet censorship.
SOPA would enable the US State Department and copyright holders to have a website shut down and its advertising revenue and access to financial tools such as Paypal blocked simply by accusing it of violating a copyright — in other words, the site would be guilty until proven innocent, if it got the chance to defend itself at all.
It has also been suggested that “even linking to an offending website can get you taken offline. The definition of copyright infringement would become so loose that simply associating yourself with a site that has been accused of violating IP [intellectual property] is enough to make you guilty, too.”
This shows a fundamental lack of understanding on the part of lawmakers about how the Internet works and how easy it would be for an ‘innocent bystander’ to get burned by SOPA. Indeed, VICE recently reported that Rep. Lamar Smith, author of the bill, was guilty of copyright infringement on his own site.
While the House has delayed a vote on SOPA yet again, thanks in large part to unrelenting pressure from opponents, the Senate is still scheduled to vote on PIPA January 24.
How to take a stand against SOPA/PIPA
- Start with some research: 10 reasons you should take action against SOPA.
- The website AmericanCensorship.org has been leading the anti-SOPA charge, circulating an online petition, helping Internet users send emails to their members of Congress (do you know where your representative or senator stands on the issue?), and recruiting volunteers to meet with their Congressperson during the January recess. Visit the site for the latest call to action.
- Join Reddit and dozens of of other high-profile sites by ‘going dark’ on Wednesday, January 18. Have your URL redirect to this page to raise awareness about the issue and the upcoming vote.
- If you’re on WordPress, download the plugin they’ve designed specifically for this action.
- Petition your favorite sites to join the Jan. 18 strike.
- Block your site’s logo or header with a “Stop Censorship” bar. AmericanCensorship.org provides the code for easy implementation.
- Also at AmericanCensorship, you can use the #censorshipeverywhere tool to “redact” text and post it on Twitter, Facebook, or wherever.
- Forbes contributor Paul Tassi has some ideas of how to use your Facebook account to protest.
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Hal Amen is a managing editor at Matador. His personal travel blog is WayWorded.
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