The Night the Lights Went Out for SOPA

At 12am EST this morning, some of the Internet’s highest-traffic sites went black for twenty-four hours. This intentional blackout is in protest of SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act), a piece of legislation representing an attempt by the U.S. Congress to curb Internet piracy. We wrote about the bill previously, in regard to some previous attention-getting methods by sites like Tumblr, but this type of wide-scale Internet protest is unprecedented.

You can read an interview with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales here, detailing the decision for Wikipedia to shut down for the day – which like most things on the site was informed by a democratic process. Though the bill’s authors have rebuffed the protest as a publicity stunt, Wales’ position is one that many Internet users share:

The issue here is that this law is very badly written, very broadly overreaching and, in at least the Senate version, would include the creation of a DNS (domain name system) blocking regime that’s technically identical to the one that’s used by China. I don’t think that’s the right way the U.S. needs to go in taking a leadership role on the Internet.

Reddit will be joining the blackout as well, and a blog post there gives a good technical examination of the proposed legislation, making some conclusions about what it could do, and why it probably won’t do what it’s supposed to do. Though Google will not be joining the blackout, they will provide information on the homepage about why they oppose the bill.

The good news for the bill’s detractors is that the White House has come out strongly against it – which is definitely a black mark, if not making it dead in the water. And the blackout today should at the very least have the effect of drawing more people’s attention to the issue.

Here’s a picture gallery of various sites that went black today (or did something special) to spread awareness on the issue: Wikipedia, Google, Torrentfreak, Nedroid,, Reddit, Explosm, The Oatmeal.

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