The Internet is Closed Today

Did you notice that at least some of the internet is closed today? Seriously, it’s no joke. Just as part of my normal daily routine, I visited two very popular sites (Wikipedia and The Warrior Forum) this morning only to find them both closed. What’s going on?

It turns out that they are both closed for the same reason: the SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) bill that is currently going through the US Congress. It seems that the US government want to introduce a blacklist that would physically prevent people from visiting certain sites such as those that sell warez or fake and/or counterfeit goods.

Here’s the notice from the Wikipedia page:

Imagine a World Without Free Knowledge

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

And here’s what the Warrior Forum had to say about it:

Here’s the simple version: If the Justice Department or any copyright holder accused a site of “encouraging or facilitating” piracy, the government could order that site removed from US-based search engines and ad networks, forbid payment processors from handling transactions for them, and require ISPs to block access to those sites by their customers.

Let’s consider how that might apply to this forum… There are currently over 335,000 pages on this site. If just one of those pages contained a single post promoting an illegal download, or one WSO seller has used graphics or code from a copyrighted product without permission, or we miss just one Chinese spam for counterfeit goods, we could be blocked.

Would it matter that we actively look for and delete those posts? Maybe, but only after the process had begun. And we’d probably never know about it until the block was in place

The bill sounds like a good idea on the face of it, but there are all sorts of problems with it. Essentially, ANY site that allows users to upload content would be immediately placed at risk. Why? Because there is always scope for someone to misuse that facility. Even just a link to a blacklisted site could be enough to get a site banned.

Just think about that for a moment. Imagine someone posted a comment on your blog and included a link to one of those sites. That’s how easy it would be for someone to take your site down. I bet hackers are rubbing their hands right now in anticipation of what damage they might be able to do with such a simple tactic. Do you have too may competitors in the search engines, no problem – a bit of commenting and dubious linking and they are gone. See how ridiculous this could become?

If this bill were to become law, we would immediately close our forum and our comment facility. Not that we suffer from the problem at present, but there is always that potential with any site that allows users interaction of any kind. Think of what this would mean for sites like Facebook, Myspace, Wikipedia and Hubpages.

We all want to improve the internet, but this bill is flawed. You can help get it squashed if you are a US citizen. If you live in the USA, you can get the contact information for your local Senators and Representatives here.

All you need to do is contact them and let them know how you feel. Remember that they are well meaning individuals who simply don’t understand the internet or why the bill is a bad idea. If enough people do this, the bill is sure to get squashed.

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