Herdict Tracks Jan. 18 SOPA Protests

Tonight, several US-based websites will begin an important and unprecedented protest against two pieces of legislation: Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) in the US House of Representatives and Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the US Senate.  These pieces of legislation, if enacted as currently written, would give the American government and corporations the power to alter the structural underpinnings of the Internet in the name of stopping online piracy.

Much has been written about the proposed legislation (see, e.g., EFF, Wikimedia, BoingBoing, Reddit, WordPress, Tor, and Fight For The Future), but in short, it will muck with the free and open Internet, while creating a high risk of abuse.  In other words, corporations and the government would receive the power to censor sites with nearly no due process.

In protest of these two pieces of legislation, several organizations have agreed to black out some or all of their services/sites beginning tomorrow, January, 18, 2011.  These organizations include: Wikipedia, TwitPic, MoveOn.org, Mozilla, Reddit, WordPress, Tor, and the iCanHasCheezburger sites.

Although not everyone believes this blackout is a good idea, we support the protesting organizations in demonstrating the potential negative consequences of these bills.  In support of their blackout, we are encouraging all US members of the Herd to report through the Herdict Reporter when these sites become all or partially unavailable.  For people in the US, our Reporter will automatically load the sites of several of the protest participants (and you can easily input others to test).

At Herdict, we typically stay away from political issues.  Our position is that we are a network resource that provides information about the continuous state of the Internet at large.  Although we clearly believe in the importance of a free and open Internet, by overtly politicizing what we do, we risk our status as a conduit of data.  However, in this case, we don’t need to choose: we can track the unavailability of these sites as they go dark, while also supporting the organizations in their demonstration of the censorship risks SOPA and PIPA pose.

We encourage you all to report as this blackout gets underway.

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About the Author: Ryan Budish

Ryan Budish is a fellow at the Berkman Center and the Director of Herdict, which uses crowdsourcing to present a real-time view of Internet accessibility around the world. Ryan received his J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he served as an editor of the Harvard Law Review.

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