Today, some of your favorite websites will not be displaying or functioning fully. They will not be at our collective disposal with just a click of a button, and their content will not be there, ready to entertain us, or inform us, or make us better citizens of the world. Instead, these websites will be dark or possess very little other than a message of protest against proposed U.S. legislation that threatens internet freedom: the Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA).
As it stands today, the U.S. has laws in place to fight online piracy and copyright infringement. You see this in action every time you go to watch a YouTube video and instead of the video, you see a notice that it has been taken down due to some form of copyright infringement of [insert big name corporation here]. SOPA/PIPA would do surprisingly little to actually put an end to online piracy and copyright infringement. What it would do, however, is give the federal government the authority to censor and shut down entire websites on a media company’s say-so and put innovation, creativity, and freedom of expression severely at risk.
The U.S. legal system is held up by a fundamental idea: that people are innocent until proven guilty. The passing of SOPA/PIPA would make it so that those who own and operate websites would not be protected by this same right, as their websites could be taken down based on accusation alone and without due process.
Woman Tribune will not go dark today because as much as I support this protest and every single person doing everything they can to raise awareness about how much damage can and will likely be done with the passing of these pieces of legislation, I cannot afford for the ads you see on this website to go down for the day. And that is really the point, isn’t it?
I Work For the Internet. I have been blogging since I was 13 years old–nearly half my life–and exactly four years and one day ago, I published the first post on this website. While I love writing more than doing anything else in life, I did not start Woman Tribune because of my love of writing; I started my other blog, Menstrual Poetry, because of that. I created Woman Tribune with the hope that it would become a stable, full-time job. As a person who lives with clinical depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and a debilitating disease that started as minor dental issues that has over the years caused my body to start attacking itself, I am not what one would call a reliable employee under normal, society-approved circumstances. It is because of the internet and its accessibility that I have been able to make a living by writing, editing, and freelancing as a web designer and developer. Without it, I would very likely have had little to no other options, and honestly, I have no idea where I would be today. If widespread censorship of the internet were to become an everyday reality, people who live in this country who rely on their blogs and internet businesses to keep them alive could lose everything.
Our society has been heavily influenced by the tech industry; how so many of us work and live has been strengthened by the tools and the platforms that have been made available to us because of the creativity and innovation that has been fostered through this industry. By having any aspect of that forcibly oppressed, we would all be affected.
Take action against SOPA and PIPA. Educate yourself about these two bills and what their passing would mean for every single person who goes on the internet every day. On January 24th, Congress will vote to pass internet censorship in the Senate. Until then, write and call your lawmakers and make sure your voice of opposition is heard.
If you run a WordPress-powered blog and want to participate in the internet blackout today, there are numerous SOPA blackout plugins to choose from. If you don’t use WordPress, there are other apps and codes you can use. You can also follow news about the strike on Twitter using the hashtag #sopastrike.
Photo by SOPA Strike