MediaFile

SOPA, the Internet, and the benefits of a mutual enemy

That giant sucking sound you hear is the life being drained from SOPA and PIPA.

In an astonishingly effective campaign, a number of prominent websites decided on Jan. 18 to act as though they were being censored. SOPA — the House Stop Online Piracy Act , and PIPA, the Senate’s Protect IP Act  — would, in fact, have little or no impact on U.S. sites but the message was clear: The Net is one seamless organism. An attack on my friend, or even my enemy, is an attack on me.

The big players that made a big show of support for the anti-SOPA/PIPA cause included Wikipedia, which completely shut down its U.S. site, and reddit.com and wired.com (I work for the latter, and both are owned by Condé Nast).

Some big players did not get involved in the protest, including Twitter (which even belittled Wikipedia’s demonstration as “silly”) and Facebook.

Google, a vocal opponent, redacted its name on Google.com but did permit searches. (Again, in the interest of full disclosure, Google sponsored the redacted wired.com homepage illustrated above.)

But the fact that arguably many of the biggest names in the internet business didn’t participate much or at all in the “blackout” makes it all the more fascinating that nearly 20 senators – and now all four remaining Republican presidential aspirants — now suddenly say they are against it. Friday morning Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he was delaying a scheduled vote on PIPA.

Stop SOPA banners might morph in future protests

Getting people to add “STOP SOPA” banners to their Twitter and Facebook profile photos was more than just a message about pending legislation.

The banners, which swept the Internet in recent days, allowed people to quickly signal opposition to the antipiracy bills known as PIPA and SOPA, which many critics say are too broad. They are the brainchild of Greg Hochmuth, an engineer at photo site Instagram, and former Google product manager Hunter Walk, who created the site blackoutsopa.org.

“Profile pictures are becoming more and more omnipresent in our interface-heavy lives,” Hochmuth told Reuters in an email. “We thought: why not let people take more ownership of these pixels?” He envisions people using similar banners in the future, to get out all kinds of messages.