Reddit to black out on 18 January to protest SOPA

11 Jan 2012

Popular news-sharing site Reddit has said it will be blacking itself out on 18 January for 12 hours in protest of the controversial Stop Online Piracy (SOPA) and Protect IP Acts (PIPA) which have effectively polarised the internet industry and threaten the very fabric of the web itself.

Reddit warned last month that if the measures contained in SOPA are implemented, it would be too onerous to manage and would lead to its closure.

The site has decided to take a stand by blacking itself out between 8am and 8pm on 18 January.

In a blog post yesterday, Reddit administrators wrote: “The freedom, innovation and economic opportunity that the internet enables is in jeopardy. Congress is considering legislation that will dramatically change your internet experience and put an end to Reddit and many other sites you use every day.

“Internet experts, organisations, companies, entrepreneurs, legal experts, journalists and individuals have repeatedly expressed how dangerous this bill is. If we do nothing, Congress will likely pass the Protect IP Act (in the Senate) or the Stop Online Piracy Act (in the House), and then the president will probably sign it into law. There are powerful forces trying to censor the internet, and a few months ago many people thought this legislation would surely pass.”

SOPA and PIPA are a set of proposed US laws supported by heavy lobbying by the music industry and Hollywood, aimed at stamping out online piracy. However, some of the proposals are considered so draconian that leading internet entrepreneurs including the founders of Google, Twitter and LinkedIn to warn that SOPA will stifle innovation and lead to widescale censorship.

The leading executives, who include Google’s Sergey Brin, YouTube’s Chad Hurley, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and LinkedIn’s Reed Hoffman, warned that the proposals would deny website owners the right to due process of law, undermine security online by changing the basic structure of the internet and give the US government the power to censor the web using techniques similar to those used by Iran, China and Malaysia.

At the other end of the spectrum is the creative industries which feel that widespread piracy is savaging their revenues, leading to job losses and the inability of artists to make a living from the content they created.

SOPA and PIPA have truly polarised the internet industry, from the creators who developed ground-breaking brands to the copyright holders and Hollywood, that also see the internet as the road to survival.

Returning to Reddit, the Reddit team said the legislation has had a polarising effect on its readership also but felt it had to take a stand.

“We wouldn’t do this if we didn’t believe this legislation and the forces behind it were a serious threat to Reddit and the internet as we know it. Blacking out Reddit is a hard choice, but we feel focusing on a day of action is the best way we can amplify the voice of the community.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years