High-profile Internet companies and organizations including Google, Wikipedia, and the EFF bring down a veil of darkness to underscore their worries about the controversial legislation.
Google, blacked out
Harsh criticisms of the Stop Online Piracy Act by Internet companies and organizations turned to a form of direct action today, with high-profile Web sites blacking out portions of--or, in the case of Wikipedia--entire pages. The goal is to underline the message from those companies that SOPA poses a very real threat of Web censorship. (For more details on the pending legislation, see "How SOPA would affect you: FAQ.")
Google's home page, for instance, this morning features a big, black block over the colorful "Google" logo that dominates the page, and a stark message under the search window urges: "Tell Congress: Please don't censor the web!" Both the blacked-out logo and the "Tell Congress" line linked out to a page entitled "End Piracy, Not Liberty" with an option for users to sign a petition to Congress.
Wikipedia's English-language pages went completely black at 9 p.m. PT last night, with a splash page saying "the U.S. Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open Internet." The online encyclopedia's blackout, intended to precede next week's Senate floor vote on the legislation, is scheduled to last 24 hours.
Amazon.com remains open for business, but if you glance to the right side of the page while you're shopping, you can follow a link to NetCoalition.com. That coalition, which includes Amazon, Google, Yahoo, eBay, IAC, Bloomberg, Expedia, and Wikipedia, "seeks to preserve the vitality of the Internet that exists today--an open and consumer-oriented competitive environment--which inspires global innovation and trade."
The photo-sharing site Flickr is offering a do-it-yourself spin on the blackout. Users can darken their own photos--or other folks'--"for a 24-hour period to deprive the web of the rich content that makes it thrive." Initially, Flickr set a 10-photo limit, then changed that to an unlimited number of photos.
The Tor Project boils the message down to two words: stop censorship. When it comes to SOPA and Tor, there's no small about of irony. The Tor software was created by the U.S. government, and the nonprofit Tor Project is funded in part by federal agencies that hope that it will let Internet users in repressive regimes bypass their country's informational blockades. SOPA could make it illegal to distribute Tor and similar software that might let users circumvent attempts by the U.S. government to block pirate Web sites.
On Craigslist, it's the familiar anti-SOPA/PIPA message and exhortation to contact members of Congress. There's also a more vivid postscript: "corporate paymasters, KEEP THOSE CLAMMY HANDS OFF THE INTERNET!"