Wikipedia staged a blackout on Wednesday, 18th January, in protest of the SOPA and PIPA bills that threaten to change the dynamics of a free web. In a show of solidarity, several other websites such as Google (US), Reddit, WordPress, Wired etc. too turned the pages, or parts of the pages black, in order to depict what a world without a free web would look like.
Wikipedia kicked off the announcement of the blackout via Twitter. Jimmy Wales posted ““Student warning! Do your homework early. Wikipedia protesting bad law on Wednesday! #SOPA”” via his Twitter profile. This led to a flood of responses from the Twitterverse showing their support for the cause. On Wednesday, Wikipedia, along with several other sites, turned black with only the stark message stating “Imagine a world without free knowledge”. While a single day may not make much of a difference to our online lives, imagine a world without the internet as we know it? Imagine a world without Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or even to some extent Google! What would it be like to get cut off from all social ties and go back a decade in time? What is important to be noted here is that website owners and users are not against legislation or a law. They want to support the end of piracy without senseless hampering of their online liberty. Shut-downs can turn out to be larger than what they seem. Take a look at Egypt, a year ago. The Mubarak government tried to curb the growth of protest messages by shutting down internet, only to have their plan backfire. People got more agitated and upset by their “freedom of speech” being curbed and literally took to the streets.
Although the SOPA bill has been stalled for now, authors are planning to bring it up once again and push forth their motive of abolishing piracy. Let’s look forward to a more concrete bill that does not threaten our right of free speech and online liberty.