The passing of the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, could very well scrub the Internet clean of any content that the US government considers questionable.
The massively popularly website Reddit is well aware of these implications and is ready to show the world just what harm SOPA could do to the Internet.
On January 18, Reddit, a user-generated aggregator of content contributed by all corners of the Internet, will black out their own site in protest of SOPA. For an online hub that snags up around 2 billion hits every month, a lot of traffic and ad revenue stands to be lost during the 12-hour span. For the administrators of the site, though, they are running short on finding ways to fight the legislation.
Advocates against SOPA have rallied in Washington and across the country and Internet since a congressional committee began drafting the Act. Under the legislation, websites and people that post or share third-party content could be crushed with heavy fines and imprisoned for the distribution of knowledge. While opposition has existed ever since the terrifying realities of SOPA made its way to the Web, the ban by way of Reddit stands to be the biggest and only protest of its kind so far.
On January 18, Reddit announced that “Instead of the normal glorious, user-curated chaos,” the site will suspend its content and instead post a message about the dangers of both SOPA and the Protect IP Act, a sister legislator of sorts about to go before the US Senate. The site will also post a live stream of the House hearing that will discuss SOPA, which Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian will be testifying at.
“The freedom, innovation, and economic opportunity that the Internet enables is in jeopardy,” reads an official post published by Reddit administrators on their site. “Congress is considering legislation that will dramatically change your Internet experience and put an end to Reddit and many other sites you use every day. Internet experts, organizations, companies, entrepreneurs, legal experts, journalists and individuals have repeatedly expressed how dangerous this bill is. If we do nothing, Congress will likely pass the Protect IP Act (in the Senate) or the Stop Online Piracy Act (in the House), and then the president will probably sign it into law. There are powerful forces trying to censor the Internet, and a few months ago many people thought this legislation would surely pass. However, there’s a new hope that we can defeat this dangerous legislation.”
Reddit users have rallied for other causes online as of late, attracting thousands of comments over such issues as the National Defense Authorization Act. Shutting down their own sight for the sake of protest, though, is a rare move for Reddit.
“Blacking out Reddit is a hard choice, but we feel focusing on a day of action is the best way we can amplify the voice of the community,” add site administrators. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols at ZDNet agrees, and acknowledges that Reddit already is the leading social network opposed to SOPA and calls the site a “hotbed” for organizing protests. Many users of the site supported a recent campaign against domain registrar GoDaddy after the company offered their support for SOPA. Though the registrar later rescinded their support for SOPA, a campaign largely amplified by Reddit yielded thousands of account cancellations on GoDaddy.
Other major sites that have rallied against supporters of SOPA include WikiLeaks, which cancelled all of its GoDaddy domains in opposition to their initial alignment with the legislation. Some fear though that it will take much more than just a handful of major sites to make a stink bad enough for Congress to second-guess SOPA.
“Chances are if you’re a regular Reddit user, you’re either tech savvy enough to know the dangers of SOPA, or if not, you’ve at least been reading about it on the site’s front page for months,” writes Paul Tassi on Forbes. “Rather, even though Reddit is a massive site, the industry needs a nuclear option to truly decimate SOPA once and for all. Titans like Google and Facebook need to have a similar blackout, which would reach an audience far, far wider than Reddit’s.”
Tassi adds that Reddit’s maneuver is a good first step, but others must fall in line if they want to ensure a success.
“A blackout of the internet’s biggest sites would seal the deal automatically, and we could be free of this nonsense for good,” writes Tassi.