Today many leading tech and web companies are protesting the SOPA and PIPA bills in the house and senate, respectively. Wikipedia is probably the largest name among the sites that are actually going dark — showing no content at all on the sites except a note about the protest. Google is the biggest name among the sites publicly protesting.
Google’s protest is a large black box signifying the censorship that the current version of the SOPA and PIPA bills would bring across the web. If you click on the link below, or anywhere on the black box covering the logo, it takes you to Google’s page protesting the bills and filling in some very basic information about it.
In addition Google has said they are greatly slowing down the crawl rate of the Google bot for today only, so as to limit any negative impact from sites that are going dark for the day. Previously, however, Google did give instructions on how to take your site dark without harming your rankings (by returning a 503 error).
For those of you unaware of the SOPA / PIPA issue, here are the main points:
- It’s backed by the music, movie, and publishing industries as a way to prevent foreign sites from profiting off their copyrights.
- Whether or not it was the intent, the bills have provisions that would affect all US sites.
- They allow for the removal of sites from the internet and from search engines without a warrant, if that site hosts, embeds, links to, or talks about how to get copyrighted content.
- They call for the removal of sites in a way that would damage the architecture of the internet, and likely damage internet security.
- They are worded such that just linking to a copyrighted work is an infringement, and your site is responsible for all links — meaning Facebook and Twitter are responsible for every link posted by every user, and they are encouraged to police their users. There is also a provision that indemnifies them for censoring too much or when it wasn’t necessary.
- They are worded such that a prison term of up to 5 years could apply to violation from US web site owners.
- Taken together, these bills literally make it possible for you to have a blog, and have someone post a comment with a link to themselves singing karaoke. Your site could get taken down and you could serve jail time because of that. This is clearly not the intent of the bills, but it is how they were written.
So it’s easy to see why a lot of big names are against it. All of the security groups are against it for its potential to damage the internet structure, the privacy groups are against it for the denial of freedom of speech, and of course the tech companies are against it because they have user-generated content that they can’t reasonably control. Can you imagine Facebook or Twitter trying to prevent any links to any videos that contain any snippet of song that may be copyrighted?