ome of the most heavily trafficked corners of the web went dark on Wednesday, as Wikipedia, Reddit, Wordpress, and Tumblr shut down to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA). Opposed by many internet companies and, to some extent, the White House, SOPA would potentially give giant content providers like NBC Universal and News Corp. the power to block access to websites peddling pirated music, movies, and other material. Wikipedia charges that SOPA "could fatally damage the free and open internet." But is the people's encyclopedia's self-imposed blackout a step too far?
This is an "abuse of power": Wednesday's blackout is an "irresponsible" gimmick, says Chris Dodd, head of the Motion Picture Association of America, in a statement. Lawmakers who support SOPA are simply making an effort to to stop piracy. This blackout won't change minds — it's just "a disservice to people who rely on" Wikipedia and Co. for information. Plus, it's a "dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users," all in an attempt "to further their [own] corporate interests." We need "meaningful efforts to combat piracy," not "hyperbole and PR stunts."
"MPAA Chairman Chris Dodd speaks out against 'blackout' protest of SOPA and PIPA"
But the blackouts are already working: "Something remarkable" is happening, says Andrew McDiarmid at CNN. The blackouts have inspired thousands of internet users to call their congressmen and senators. And the resulting pressure has led the bills' sponsors to make revisions. Maybe now that the online backlash against SOPA and PIPA is "having meaningful impact," the bills stand "a real chance of developing into something all sides can agree on."
"Why SOPA still needs work"
Regardless, SOPA opponents are painfully misinformed: Critics of SOPA and PIPA absurdly charge that the bills would "break" the internet, "turn Google and its cohorts into full-time internet cops, and end freedom of speech as we know it," says Eva Rodriguez at The Washington Post. But PIPA doesn't force Google to scour the internet for pirates — it is copyright holders who must hunt down potential violators and then "convince a federal judge" that offending sites are "dedicated" to copyright infringement. Those are the facts. A good part of Wednesday's protests is based on hyperbole — and "what some of us might call lies."
"SOPA, PIPA won't 'break' the Internet"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why is American internet so slow?
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- 7 ways to be the most interesting person in any room
- Colorado’s new ‘drive high, get a DUI’ commercials are actually pretty clever
- What the collapse of the Ming Dynasty can tell us about American decline
- 22 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Here are the people who want to take a one way trip to Mars
- Who are the real gay marriage bigots?
- Ukraine's fraught relationship with Russia: A brief history
- Sorry Belle Knox, porn still oppresses women
Subscribe to the Week