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Reddit to go silent in SOPA protest

The news aggregator says it will shut down for 12 hours on January 18 in protest of legislation currently being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives that it says would seriously endanger freedom of expression on the Internet.

All across Twitter these days, you can find people who are standing up to the bipartisan Congressional coalition behind the Stop Online Piracy Act. But one news site is taking its protest a whole lot further than simply plastering a "STOP SOPA" banner across its Twitter profile picture.

Reddit, a popular news aggregator, said today that it will be "blacking out" its entire site for 12 hours on January 18.

A graphic posted by Reddit on a post announcing the news aggregation site's plan to go silent next week in protest of PIPA/SOPA legislation. Reddit

"The freedom, innovation, and economic opportunity that the Internet enables is in jeopardy," Reddit's editors posted this afternoon. "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." (See CNET's FAQ on SOPA.)

Reddit says that during those 12 blackout hours, rather than display the brand of "glorious, user-created chaos" it usually has on its site, it will display "a simple message about how the PIPA/SOPA legislation would shut down sites like Reddit, [as well as] links to resources to learn more, and [suggest] ways to take action."

Many Twitter users have added a STOP SOPA banner to their profile images. Screenshot by CNET

To be sure, Reddit's decision is guaranteed to bring it a great deal of free attention. But that doesn't mean that the move is unprincipled. Whatever you believe about the site and about the proposed legislation, it's very interesting to see not just individuals, but an entire organization take such a stand against a proposed set of laws.

"Many of you stand with us against PIPA/SOPA," Reddit wrote, "but we know support for a blackout isn't unanimous. We're not taking this action lightly. We wouldn't do this if we didn't believe this legislation and the forces behind it were a serious threat to Reddit and the Internet as we know it. 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."