Internet companies and activists are hoping to join the Arab Spring and other online democracy movements by taking an estimated 7,000 websites offline Wednesday to send a message to Washington: Don’t pass a pair of anti-piracy bills.
The websites that have announced plans to go dark include Wikipedia, Mozilla, Reddit and WordPress, but some of the most visited websites are conspicuous in their absence.
“It’s a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users and arm them with misinformation,” said Jonathan Lamy, spokesman for the Recording Industry Association of America. “It’s time for the stunts to end and those who claim to care about rogue website theft to back up their rhetoric and work with us on meaningful solutions.”
Google announced Tuesday that it will stop short of a blackout and instead the company plans to post a link on its iconic homepage explaining its opposition to the two arcane copyright bills that are suddenly fodder for the evening news: the Stop Online Piracy Act and PROTECT IP Act.
“Like many businesses, entrepreneurs and Web users, we oppose these bills because there are smart, targeted ways to shut down foreign rogue websites without asking American companies to censor the Internet,” a Google spokeswoman said in a statement. “So tomorrow we will be joining many other tech companies to highlight this issue on our U.S. homepage.”
A mix of watchdog groups, content creators and grass-roots activists on Tuesday touted the planned mass Internet blackout as the largest online “revolution” in the U.S. to date — saying it is needed to stop legislation that the Internet industry claims will potentially put restrictions on the Web that will halt innovation and undermine free expression.
“Tomorrow will be a big day of action,” said Tiffiniy Cheng, director of fightforthefuture.org, which is organizing the blackout. “The fight will continue until we get the final say from members of Congress that these bills will be dropped, and we’ll start from the beginning on how to balance protection of copyright with expression online.”
Providing an Internet-age twist on backroom lobbying, the campaign is attracting attention on Capitol Hill.
“I’ve rarely seen an issue that has come up from the grass roots as effectively as this has to slow down, and it appears to be stop, a legislative mistake that was about to be made,” Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) said on a radio show on Sirius XM Tuesday called “The Morning Briefing” on P.O.T.U.S.
Senate leaders are pushing forward with a plan to hold a test vote on Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy’s (D-Vt.) version of the bill — known as PIPA — on Jan. 24. But divisions in both parties in the Senate suggest the fate of the bill remains in doubt, and sources say they believe Leahy is trying to rework the bill to find a compromise that can win passage.
House leadership aides are reluctant to talk much about SOPA’s prospects, pointing to the fact that it’s stuck in the Judiciary Committee.