Blackouts carry flawed nobility
I’m in two minds about yesterday’s website blackouts to protest proposed US anti-piracy legislation.
On the one hand, it’s good to see big-name firms including Wikipedia and Word Press sticking their necks out to protect freedom of information. But, on the other hand, the firms could ultimately lose out by driving their users elsewhere – perhaps to sites like Google, which showed solidarity with the protest, but stopped short of a full blackout.
Around 7,000 sites shut down Wednesday to show their opposition to the US House of Representatives’ Stop Online Piracy act (Sopa) and Senate’s Protect Intellectual Property act (Pipa). The action appeared to have an immediate effect with eight senators stating they would drop support for Pipa – including the two men who co-signed the proposed bill in the first place, the BBC reports.
Wikipedia, one of the most high profile shut-downs, posted a message on its page urging users to find out more information about the proposed bills, and register their opposition. I’m curious how many users actually did that, and how that compares to the number that simply swore at Wikipedia and switched to an alternative online encyclopedia.
Similarly for Word Press. Blog hosting sites aren’t exactly rare, so surely people will now quit the site in their droves in case it arbitrarily decides to shut down again in the future?
Time will tell what impact the shut downs ultimately had, which in turn will dictate if we’re ever likely to see such radical action from Web firms in future. For now, though, I’ll class the blackouts as noble, but somewhat flawed.