SOPA-PIPA Protests Blossom Across the Country

It’s not just Wikipedia that’s throwing its weight today behind the movement to stop the controversial anti-piracy bills moving through the U.S. Congress.

While the English version of the world’s most-visited encyclopedia site has gone dark for the day to call attention to the perceived dangers of the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act, a number of other organizations are stepping into the spotlight, making their case that the laws—which, in their original form, would have given federal prosecutors and courts the power to block access to Internet domains deemed to be supporting “infringing” activities—would deter free speech and undermine the Internet’s technical infrastructure.

Given indications that markup of the bill is being delayed, as well as the Obama Administration’s recently declared opposition to SOPA (the House version of the bill) and PIPA (the Senate version), it’s doubtful that the anti-piracy bills will make it into law this year. But protesters and Internet entrepreneurs are saying today’s actions are necessary to forestall future Congressional action and call attention to the extent of popular opposition to the bills.

Here’s a quick survey of protest actions going on today around the San Francisco Bay Area and Xconomy’s other home cities.

Hackers & Founders plans a live protest against PIPA and SOPA at San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza at noon Pacific Time today. The group of programmer-entrepreneurs says it’s joining forces with other groups such as 106 Miles, SV NewTech, SF NewTech, Designers and Geeks, Hacks & Hackers, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Internet Archive, and TechNet to stage similar events in New York, Seattle, Silicon Valley, and Washington, D.C. Speakers expected at today’s protest in San Francisco include angel investor Ron Conway, Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle, TechNet vice president Gideon Lett, and Hackers & Founders founder Jonathan Nelson.

—The Occupy Oakland website used by coordinators of grassroots protests in the East Bay has gone dark for the day—but features a nifty mouse-tracking spotlight that allows you to read a statement explaining the action.

—The 20,000-member New York Tech Meetup group has blacked out its site and is organizing an “Emergency NY Tech Meetup” today at 12:30 Eastern time at 780 Third Avenue in Manhattan, outside the offices of Senator Charles Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Speakers will include CEO and NY Tech Meetup founder Scott Heiferman, NYU media studies scholar Clay Shirky, Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, and Tumblr vice president Andrew McLaughlin. New York Tech Meetup chairman Andrew Rasiej said in a statement that the tech community in New York is “appalled” by Schumer and Gillibrand’s support for PIPA.

–A Seattle Against SOPA rally originally planned for 11:30 a.m. Pacific time today has been postponed due to the city’s poor weather, but organizers say they will reschedule the event.

—Google is censoring itself by placing a symbolic black square over its logo. The search and advertising giant has also posted a petition urging members of Congress to vote against PIPA and SOPA.

Craigslist has interposed a black landing page protesting SOPA and PIPA before users can reach its online listings (which are still accessible).

Flickr, the photo sharing site owned by Yahoo, offered users the ability to black out up to 10 photos each as a symbolic way to”deprive the web of the rich content that makes it thrive.”

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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2 responses to “SOPA-PIPA Protests Blossom Across the Country”

  1. Here’s a related FYI: Network security researcher Aryeh Gorestky of San Diego-based ESET suggests that cyber criminals could manipulate search engine results during the SOPA-PIPA website protest, using “black hat SEO” to direct traffic to malicious websites posing as the real deal. I don’t know how likely this is, but I’m curious if anyone agrees. Gorestky’s blog is here: