How Computer-Mediated Social Interactions Stop SOPA

What is SOPA

SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, is a bill introduced by U.S. Representative Lamar S. Smith (R-TX) to expand the ability of U.S. law enforcement to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods. Provisions include the requesting of court orders to bar advertising networks and payment facilities from conducting business with infringing websites, and search engines form linking to the websites, and court order requiring Internet service providers to block access to the websites. The law would expand existing criminal laws to include unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content, imposing a maximum penalty of five years in prison. 1

Why SOPA is BAD

  • Threat to freedom of speech
    SOPA would force many proxy servers and VPN services shutdown, because people might utilize them to get infringing content. However, it is these servers that offers help to fight-for-freedom activities, such as the Arabic Spring. With the enforcement of SOPA, the freedom of speech would be restricted over the Internet.
  • Threat to UGC (User Generated Content) websites
    UGC websites mainly relies on the user to publish and share contents. SOPA will pose a serious threat to websites of this type. The whole website might be shut down if one uploads infringing content.
  • Blow users’ motivation and enthusiasm to generate valuable content
    One has to be extremely careful when posting content on the web, so that he/she might be scared to generate content, with the risk of being in jail. One records a video of his/her child singing, but dare not to publish on YouTube to share with the family and friends, because that song might be infringing.

Protest on the Internet to fight against SOPA

  • Big Companies:
    • Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Mozilla, LinkedIn, Twitter, eBay, AOL and Zynga are the most active ones to strongly fight against SOPA, since they rely on social media and user generated content a lot. They together posted an statement on New York Times, which makes SOPA well known by the public.
    • The English Wikipedia blackout occurred for 24 hours on Jan. 18, 2012. The site showed only a message asking visitors to “Imagine a world without free knowledge.” It is estimated in excess of 160 million people saw the banner. The Daily Mail estimated that 7,000 smaller websites either joined in the blackout for the day or posted some kind of protest at the proposed legislation. 2

      Figure 1
    • To raise awareness of the importance of stopping SOPA, Tumblr has artfully censored everyone’s blog dashboards and linked to a petition form at the top of the page. It showed how hard SOPA makes it to share and exchange knowledge. 3

      Figure 2
    • By blacking out the default Firefox start page and using social media, Mozilla reached 40 million people with its anti-SOPA message. 30 million people in the US saw the start page’s call to action, 1.8 million visited its Mozilla.org/SOPA info page, and the effort generated 360,000 emails to Congress. 4 Mozilla was one of nine companies that jointly signed a letter to key members of Congress, saying that SOPA and PIPA “pose a serious risk to our industry’s continued track record of innovation and job-creation, as well as to our Nation’s cyber security.” 5

      Figure 3
    • Internet Users
      Since GoDaddy once supported SOPA at the beginning, even though it has changed its standpoint, people don’t buy it and still boycott GoDaddy. Someone said on Reddit:
This is not sincere. This experience proved to me that GoDaddy will support internet censorship as long as nobody threatens them with a boycott. GoDaddy still deserves a boycott.
@srshk213 6

Another one said:

The boycott should continue. This is a company that supported SOPA/PIPA unconditionally and even went as far as to call opponents of the bills as morons. This is not a company that understands the essence of the internet and will more than likely support another bill like this as soon as it comes up. Screw these guys and screw them hard.
@Errenden 7

In boycott of GoDaddy, many have moved their domain names to other domain name service providers. The most influential movement was made by Wikipedia. On Dec. 24, 2011, Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia) posted on twitter:

I am proud to announce that the Wikipedia domain names will move away from GoDaddy. Their position on #sopa is unacceptable to us.
@jimmy_wales 8

Jimmy pushed leave-GoDaddy to a climax. As reported by latersgd.com, there were 68,766 websites finished the transfer, which brought GoDaddy a total loss of 72,000 domain names by the date of Dec. 31, 2011.

As a blogger (jjpro.net) and supporter of anti-SOPA myself, I moved all my 5 domain names from GoDaddy to Domain.com.

References:

1. Para 1, Stop Online Piracy Act, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Online_Piracy_Act
2. Para 1, Wikipedia blackout, Stop Online Piracy Act, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Online_Piracy_Act#Wikipedia_blackout
3. Para 2, “Tumblr Censors Our Dashboards In Opposition To SOPA”, Jon Mitchell, readwrite, http://readwrite.com/2011/11/16/tumblr_censors_our_dashboards_in_opposition_to_sop
4. Para 1, “Mozilla’s Anti-SOPA Message Reached 40 Million People”, Josh Constine, TechCrunch, http://techcrunch.com/2012/01/19/mozillas-anti-sopa-message-reached-40-million-people/
5. Para 8, “Mozilla, Firefox join anti-SOPA strike”, Gregg Keizer, Computer World, http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9223509/Mozilla_Firefox_join_anti_SOPA_strike
6. http://www.reddit.com/r/technology/comments/no6b1/go_daddy_no_longer_supports_sopa_latest_blog_post/c3amoo4
7. http://www.reddit.com/r/technology/comments/no6b1/go_daddy_no_longer_supports_sopa_latest_blog_post/c3ane4w
8. https://twitter.com/#!/jimmy_wales/status/150287579642740736

Figure 1. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-501465_162-57360174-501465/wikipedia-moveon-reddit-mozilla-shuts-down-to-protest-sopa-pipa-how-to-prepare/
Figure 2. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-501465_162-57360174-501465/wikipedia-moveon-reddit-mozilla-shuts-down-to-protest-sopa-pipa-how-to-prepare/
Figure 3. http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9223509/Mozilla_Firefox_join_anti_SOPA_strike

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