Google, Wikipedia and others go dark against SOPA

Wikipedia, Google, Reddit, Mozilla, WordPress, Flickr, and dozens of other websites have shown their support against SOPA by either going dark, or showing their dislike of the US bill in some way.

SOPA, standing for Stop Online Piracy Act, aims to grant new powers to law enforcement agencies in order to filter the Internet and hopefully stop piracy. However many are concerned that doing so will give too great a power to content holders, and will end up eliminating due process. 

Opponents of SOPA say that under the new law American companies would be able to shut down, block access to, and stop servicing, US and foreign websites that copyright and trademark owners allege are illegal. All of this without any due process or allowing of a wrongfully targeted website to seek restitution.

That would affect sites that are powered by users, like Google's YouTube and Facebook, because media companies would be able to claim that they must, at some, point be infringing copyright without actually having to wait to prove it first. 

At the moment, if accused of copyright infringement, as long as the website in question removes the content straight away, they are exempt from further action, something that Google actively does with copyright infringing videos on YouTube. 

The most outspoken opponent of the bill is Wikipedia, who showed its disapproval by going "dark" on Wednesday. Visitors to its English website around the globe, and not just in the US, are currently denied access and instead being presented with a message titled "Imagine a World Without Free Knowledge". 

The message, displayed in white text on a black background for added effect, goes on to say:

"For over a decade, we have spent millions of hours building the largest encyclopaedia in human history. Right now, the US Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open Internet. For 24 hours, to raise awareness, we are blacking out Wikipedia."

Google also showed its disagreement to the proposed law in the US. Rather than just close its services in the US like Wikipedia, it has opted to black out its logo on the US site. Although visitors from outside the US saw the standard Google logo, those inside are reportedly seeing the Google logo blacked out. Underneath the search bar there is a call to "Tell Congress: Please don't censor the web!" which links through to an infographic detailing what's wrong with the bill.

But not everyone is against the bill that has polarised the web and North America. Media Mogul Rupert Murdoch has used Twitter to come out fighting in favour of the bill, that he says will protect content and copyright holders. 

"Nonsense argument about danger to Internet. How about Google, others blocking porn, hate speech, etc? Internet hurt?", Murdoch wrote on Twitter. 

He later showed his frustration with a second tweet: 

"Seems blogosphere has succeeded in terrorising many senators and congressmen who previously committed. Politicians all the same."

Murdoch isn't the only one. The Chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America also turned to the Internet to voice concern and show his support for the SOPA bill: 

"Only days after the White House and chief sponsors of the legislation responded to the major concern expressed by opponents and then called for all parties to work cooperatively together, some technology business interests are resorting to stunts that punish their users or turn them into their corporate pawns, rather than coming to the table to find solutions to a problem that all now seem to agree is very real and damaging." 

However, all of the lobbying and hysteria seems somewhat academic. The White House has already confirmed that SOPA and PIPA in their current forms are unlikely to be passed. 

What it does mean though, is that the void between the traditional media and "Silicon Valley" has opened up even further. The battle continues.