SOPA – Will we lose Wikipedia forever … probably not, but made you look.
Posted on January 24, 2012
January 18th, 2012 is a day that will live in search-engine infamy. The popular site, Wikipedia announced it would go dark on this day in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). In other words, January 18th was the day that no homework was done and no one knew what SOPA was because we couldn’t look it up on Wikipedia. Well played Wikipedia, well played.
According to Wikipedia, SOPA is a United States 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 from linking to the sites, and court orders requiring Internet service providers to block access to the sites. The law would expand existing criminal laws to include unauthorized streaming of copyright material, imposing a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Because of this proposed bill, the English Wikipedia, Reddit and an estimated 7,000 other websites coordinated a service blackout, or posted links and images to protest against SOPA and PIPA in an effort to raise awareness. Did you happen to visit Google.com on that day? It did not participate in the service blackout… just blacked out the “Google” image above the search bar. If it were estimated that MY website would lose $100 million per day in advertising if I did more than cover my logo… I’d stay live too. More than 160 million people saw Wikipedia’s banner that day, which is twice the amount of visitors the site gets on an average day.
Rep. Smith was not impressed, calling out Wikipedia’s efforts in particular as a publicity stunt.
“It is ironic that a website dedicated to providing information is spreading misinformation about the Stop Online Piracy Act. The bill will not harm Wikipedia, domestic blogs or social networking sites… This publicity stunt does a disservice to its users by promoting fear instead of facts. Perhaps during the blackout, Internet users can look elsewhere for an accurate definition of online piracy.”
Unfortunately for Rep. Smith, absence does make the heart grow fonder. Thousands of tweets such as “What am I going to do without Wikipedia today,” “Why is Wikipedia down? I have to write a paper on Shakespeare!” “I feel like crying over the Wikipedia Blackout. Because we’re doing research PowerPoint’s in social studies… today of all days!” and “Wikipedia is down for 24 hours? How do I find out why?” and hundreds of articles and blog posts were written about the Wikipedia blackout. Sites collected millions of users opposed to the measures, and several co-sponsors of the measures withdrew their support of the online legislation.
Smith has since said the House Judiciary Committee will postpone consideration of the legislation. Markup on the bill, which began in December, has been slated to continue in February, after the Committee “revisits the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products.”
In sum, Wikipedia’s plan worked. Millions of people heard about SOPA and the bill was shelved (which I think is great!) We cannot be sure that even half of the people outraged by SOPA and the blackouts understand what it is or have taken a gander at the proposed bill, but it was stopped nonetheless. And Wikipedia’s other plan worked. People are obviously still talking about the blackout almost a week later, and its traffic doubled and has continued to show higher numbers since, according to International Business Times. While Wikipedia’s true motive is not clear, one thing is: the site will continue to be one of the top 10 most visited sites in the world with all this publicity.
– Sarah Funderburk