Microblogging website Twitter and other opponents of the hotly debated anti-piracy SOPA legislation won’t join the scheduled blackout on Wednesday, January 18th, by Wikepedia, Reddit, and other websites in protest of the bill.
SOPA, the Stop Internet Piracy Act, would make it illegal to stream unauthorized content but is being slammed by many major web players, and now the public, as undermining the way the web works and severely constraining free speech because of unclear language. SOPA opponents say the bill would impose inappropriate and undefined censorship, require unreasonable demands from online businesses, and further, presents huge technological difficulties.
Facebook, Google, Twitter and other major Internet companies wrote a joint letter to members of congress expressing their opposition to SOPA: “The bills as drafted would expose law-abiding U.S. Internet and technology companies to new uncertain liabilities, private rights of action, and technology mandates that would require monitoring of websites.”
The SOPA legislation has stalled in the House because of the public outcry over it and also because the White House has taken the lead in questioning its merits, criticizing it with respect to freedom of expression, and urging consensus.
On Thursday the Obama administration issued an official response to the SOPA issue: “While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risks, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global internet.”
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales expressed optimism about the effects the SOPA blackout will have, and urged others to participate. “This is going to be wow. I hope Wikipedia will melt phone systems in Washington on Wednesday. Tell everyone you know!” Other internet companies joining the SOPA blackout event on Wednesday include WordPress, Boing Boing, Minecraft, and Mozilla.
Some websites have not said whether they will participate in the SOPA blackout, like Craigslist, but have left no stone unturned in criticizing and expressing their disdain and contempt for the House’s anti-piracy bill. This from the about section for SOPA on Craigslist: “What could be more un-American than jack-booted thugs throttling our free speech, poisoning the greatest of American inventions, the Internet, while devastating perhaps our most successful and competitive industry? There’s got to be a better way to sell stereo cables.”
Twitter, Facebook, Google, and other companies have said they will not shut down their servers during the SOPA blackout. PIPA (Protect IP Act), is the Senate’s version of SOPA and is scheduled to be debated in the U.S. Senate on January 24th.
It appears all parties are at least making a show of compromise as the anti-piracy bills are being debated in the House and Senate. U.S. Representative Lamar Smith (R-Tex) said he will have a provision regarding DNS blocking taken out of the act Senator Patrick Leahey (D-VT), who introduced PIPA in the Senate said he will do the same for PIPA. And, Representative Darrel Issa (R-California) said in a news release: “Majority leader (Eric Cantor R-Vir) has assured that we will continue to work to address outstanding concerns and work to build consensus prior to any anti-piracy legislation coming before the House for a vote.”
House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith said SOPA will be taken up again in February: “Due to the Republican and Democratic retreats taking place over the next two weeks, markup of the Stop Online Piracy Act is expected to resume in February.”