SOPA-PIPA Protests Blossom Across the Country
It’s not just Wikipedia that’s throwing its weight today behind the movement to stop the controversial anti-piracy bills moving through the U.S. Congress.
While the English version of the world’s most-visited encyclopedia site has gone dark for the day to call attention to the perceived dangers of the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act, a number of other organizations are stepping into the spotlight, making their case that the laws—which, in their original form, would have given federal prosecutors and courts the power to block access to Internet domains deemed to be supporting “infringing” activities—would deter free speech and undermine the Internet’s technical infrastructure.
Given indications that markup of the bill is being delayed, as well as the Obama Administration’s recently declared opposition to SOPA (the House version of the bill) and PIPA (the Senate version), it’s doubtful that the anti-piracy bills will make it into law this year. But protesters and Internet entrepreneurs are saying today’s actions are necessary to forestall future Congressional action and call attention to the extent of popular opposition to the bills.
Here’s a quick survey of protest actions going on today around the San Francisco Bay Area and Xconomy’s other home cities.
—Hackers & Founders plans a live protest against PIPA and SOPA at San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza at noon Pacific Time today. The group of programmer-entrepreneurs says it’s joining forces with other groups such as 106 Miles, SV NewTech, SF NewTech, Designers and Geeks, Hacks & Hackers, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Internet Archive, and TechNet to stage similar events in New York, Seattle, Silicon Valley, and Washington, D.C. Speakers expected at today’s protest in San Francisco include angel investor Ron Conway, Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle, TechNet vice president Gideon Lett, and Hackers & Founders founder Jonathan Nelson.
—The Occupy Oakland website used by coordinators of grassroots protests in the East Bay has gone dark for the day—but features a nifty mouse-tracking spotlight that allows you to read a statement explaining the action.
—The 20,000-member New York Tech Meetup group has blacked out its site and is organizing an “Emergency NY Tech Meetup” today at 12:30 Eastern time at 780 Third Avenue in Manhattan, outside the offices of Senator Charles Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Speakers will include Meetup.com CEO and NY Tech Meetup founder Scott Heiferman, NYU media studies scholar Clay Shirky, Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, and Tumblr vice president Andrew McLaughlin. New York Tech Meetup chairman Andrew Rasiej said in a statement that the tech community in New York is “appalled” by Schumer and Gillibrand’s support for PIPA.
–A Seattle Against SOPA rally originally planned for 11:30 a.m. Pacific time today has been postponed due to the city’s poor weather, but organizers say they will reschedule the event.
—Google is censoring itself by placing a symbolic black square over its logo. The search and advertising giant has also posted a petition urging members of Congress to vote against PIPA and SOPA.
—Automattic has redacted itself, placing black bars over most of the content on the WordPress.com home page.
—Wordnik, the San Francisco startup that maintains a huge database of words and definitions, has chosen a pseudo-Latin word, spiflicate, as its word of the day in protest of PIPA and SOPA. The site defines spiflicate as a verb meaning “to beat severely; counfound; dismay” and offers this usage example: “SOPA and PIPA are set to spiflicate the Internet; but before that happens we hope to spiflicate them!”
—danah boyd, a researcher at Microsoft’s New England Research & Development Center in Cambridge, MA, has blacked out her popular blog Apophenia in protest of SOPA and PIPA, saying the bills would “undermine the very architecture of the Internet, silencing both legitimate and illegitimate voices.”
—According to SOPAStrike, a site created by non-profit Internet freedom group Fight for the Future, hundreds of other sites are also participating in today’s symbolic protests, including the icanhascheezburger network, O’Reilly Media, Moveon.org, Mozilla, PostSecret, Tucows, Tumblr, Vimeo, and Wired.
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