Where Would We Find Cat Pictures?
The major TV news outlets do not cover the raging debate about SOPA and PIPA legislation currently being debated in Congress. Perhaps because the major news outlets are owned by media companies in favor of the laws, or perhaps because Internet stories are just too techy and boring. These laws (one for the House and one for the Senate, yay!) purport to protect copyright holders, but they are terribly bad for business and innovation on the Internet.
As Congress debates protecting something or other from someone or other on the intertubes, they seem all too happy to be downloading tons of illegally pirated content all the while (Even porn? why, yes!). When tech leaders are firing with both barrels at how bad this legislation is for business, and when almost 10% of active Senator’s campaign costs were paid by lobbyists for these bills, it prompts some tech companies to consider dramatic action.
Time Magazine openly wonders if Google, Facebook and Twitter were to go offline, on purpose, to protest these laws. You might think, ‘So What?’. But judging by the howls of protest just when Facebook moves a link around, if it were to intentionally go dark it would get some attention. And if Google were to do the same, the outcry would not just be from disgruntled friends missing out on stories of last night’s party antics, or cute cat pictures, or recipes, the roar would be from Fortune 500 companies, and from literally millions of people and businesses who make a living on the internet. Whether directly from advertising, or from the online commerce that is driven by Google Search, the humble looking site is a multi-billion dollar economic juggernaut.
If you think that is not likely, think again. Popular social news site Reddit.com is planning to do just that. On January 18th, Reddit will shutter their site on purpose, and in its place they will be posting information about this legislation, to spur its users to action. You may not know about this site (it is not as mainstream as Digg.com), but it has a very vocal audience. The political theater around this legislation may be routine for Washington, but legions of Internet geeks are awakening as sleeping tigers.