SOPA critics are ready for a showdown

The protesters’ arsenal includes a censor-yourself app for Twitter, email and status updates

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For background on this potentially Internet-breaking bill, see my last post on the subject. 

How much does the Internet hate America’s proposed Stop Online Piracy Act? A LOT.

In anticipation of a congressional hearing on the bill on Thursday, online activists are mobilizing in a big way:

  • Wikipedia may shut down. The world’s biggest encyclopedia is threatening to go on “strike” to protest SOPA.  Jimmy Wales won’t pull the plug without community support, but he’s floating the idea here.
  • The androids will march. On Dec. 14, protesters decked out in android costumes will march from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to Google’s D.C. headquarters, to pressure the search engine giant to step up its already vocal opposition to SOPA. The group behind the march, SumOfUs, will present Google with nearly 194,500 signatures asking the Internet behemoth to pull out of the Chamber of Commerce, which supports SOPA. They’re getting organized at
  • Over a million people have signed a petition against the legislation, and thousands are now lending their faces to the fight as well. Tumblr’s Fight for the Future site has launched an engaging “visual petition” called I Work For The Internet. The site lets individuals who rely on the Internet for their jobs send a message to legislators urging them not to let the interests of a handful of well-connected legacy media companies trump those of billions of Net users.
  • The same group has built a “censorize” app that lets protesters black-out their own emails, status updates and tweets in order to make their point through social media. The jarring effect is meant as a stark premonition of what’s to come should SOPA pass.

Will all the push-back work? It already has–somewhat. Texas Congressman Lamar Smith, who introduced SOPA, has backed away from its original thuggish language. He’s watered down his own bill in hopes of avoiding a full-scale war with the Geek Lobby. His efforts, though, seem to have placated no one, as even a half-neutered SOPA would still let ad networks and payment platforms like PayPal cut off “rogue” sites without fear of legal consequence.

A good alternative to SOPA might be OPEN,  the “Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act” introduced by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and  Republican Congressman Darrell Issa. OPEN puts intellectual property disputes in the hands of the U.S. Trade Representative, instead of allowing infringement accusers to choke websites on the basis of unproven allegations.

Jesse Brown is the host of’s Search Engine podcast. He is on Twitter @jessebrown