Tech Giants Attempt to Stamp Out SOPA
It is hard, maybe even impossible, to imagine a world without free knowledge in this so called internet age, but that is exactly what Wikipedia asked people to do yesterday. The English Language Wikipedia, along with several other websites, including Reddit.com and BoingBoing.net, went completely dark for a 24 hour period in protest of the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The proposed bill takes aim at overseas sites, like The Pirate Bay, that allow the continued piracy of music, movies, and more. SOPA would ban U.S. search engines, advertising networks, and other providers from servicing overseas sites that facilitate illegal file sharing in turn, making it illegal for U.S. companies to advertise on or fund the sites and making it difficult for U.S. internet users to find the sites.
The proposed bill was initially expected to be quietly approved by the house with powerful support from entertainment companies, publishers, pharmaceutical companies, and labor unions but technology giants like Google, Craigslist, Wikipedia, Facebook, and Twitter have stepped in to say not so fast. In addition to the restrictions above, SOPA, as it is written now, leaves site operators responsible for what users post and “facilitating” the publishing of copyright materials would make the site itself a violator of the act. A formal complaint letter from Facebook to lawmakers read; “We support the bills stated goals. Unfortunately, the bill as drafted would expose law abiding U.S. Internet and technology companies to new, uncertain liabilities”. At a conference in December, Google public policy director Bob Boorstin said, “YouTube would just go dark immediately, it couldn’t function.”
While not all those in opposition were brave enough to go completely dark like Wikipedia, Reddit, and BoingBoing, technology giants across the board have increased their efforts lobbying against the bill. If you checked yesterday, you would have found a black censor bar covering the Google logo, blacked out photos on Yahoo’s Flickr, and a message on Craigslist demanding that “corporate paymasters” keep their “clammy hands” off the internet.