Internet bigwigs consider a novel way to stop SOPA

posted at 2:30 pm on December 30, 2011 by Tina Korbe

Just congressional consideration of legislation that amounts to Internet censorship might have unintended consequences. As the House Judiciary Committee prepares to vote on the Stop Online Piracy Act and as the Senate prepares to debate the Protect IP Act on Jan. 24, opponents have demonstrated the creativity, efficiency and depth of their commitment to quash the bills.

Take, for example, the planned GoDaddy boycott that effectively pressured the domain registrar to denounce SOPA and its Senate counterpart, PIPA. In the past, GoDaddy spokespeople had expressed support for an expansion of copyright law to cripple piratical websites. More specifically, GoDaddy general counsel suggested that Domain Name System blocking could be an effective way to combat online piracy. Anti-SOPA activists have serious concerns about the practice of DNS blocking — so they proposed a protest of GoDaddy, urging opponents of SOPA to transfer their domain names from GoDaddy to other registrars. Yesterday, GoDaddy completely reversed its support for SOPA and PIPA.

Now, executives of major Internet companies are considering a novel way to armtwist members of Congress. Declan McCullagh reports:

It was Google co-founder Sergey Brin who warned that the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act “would put us on a par with the most oppressive nations in the world.” Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, Twitter co-founders Jack Dorsey and Biz Stone, and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman argue that the bills give the Feds unacceptable “power to censor the Web.”

But these companies have yet to roll out the heavy artillery.

When the home pages of Google.com, Amazon.com, Facebook.com, and their Internet allies simultaneously turn black with anti-censorship warnings that ask users to contact politicians about a vote in the U.S. Congress the next day on SOPA, you’ll know they’re finally serious.

True, it would be the political equivalent of a nuclear option–possibly drawing retributions from the the influential politicos backing SOPA and Protect IP–but one that could nevertheless be launched in 2012.

“There have been some serious discussions about that,” says Markham Erickson, who heads the NetCoalition trade association that counts Google, Amazon.com, eBay, and Yahoo as members. “It has never happened before.”

It’s an interesting idea — and one that simultaneously draws on and proves the strength of online communities. It’d be great if the men and women in Congress saw the flaws with the legislation without this kind of full-court press from online users, but, if not, the exercise of this “nuclear option” would be a surefire way to demonstrate the advantage of direct relationships with users.

Update: This post originally incorrectly referred to the “Stop Online Privacy Act,” when, in fact, the bill is the “Stop Online Piracy Act.” Rather different, don’t you think? Sorry for my error. The post has been corrected above.


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