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As SOPA looms, a controversial bill which aims to give private actors and authorities more authority over the web, some websites are preparing to protest the pending legislation by staging a blackout. Reddit.com announced it will be joining an unknown number of websites by participating in the blackout on January 18 between 8am and 8pm. Is this the cue for others to join?
January 18 is a significant date when industry leaders are expected to discuss SOPA before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Keep in mind, there has only been discussion and speculation thus far, but ExtremeTech reports there are reasons to believe a number of popular Internet destinations may be closing shop on the 18th.
With debate over SOPA’s future tabled until Congress reconvenes, you might think the issue would have entered a similar lull, but that’s not happened. According to Markham Erickson, head of the NetCoalition trade association, there’s been talk of a so-called “nuclear option,” in which the likes of Google, Amazon, eBay, and Yahoo! would go simultaneously dark to protest the legislation to highlight the fundamental danger the legislation poses to the function of the internet.
NetCoalition has also compiled a list of prominent individuals and organizations who are outspokenly against (PDF) SOPA, although this does not imply they will participate.
While Reddit has definitely committed to staging a blackout, Wikimedia has all but confirmed its own plans. Who else, if anyone, will join in on the protest is unknown. However, if NetCoalition members have been discussing it as Erickson suggests, that could include some real heavy hitters:
Websites that choose to observe the blackout will stop providing services, but are not expected to simply shut down. Instead, visitors can anticipate to see anti-SOPA messages displayed on these websites.
Reddit is a hugely popular website and served over 2 billion page views to 34 million unique visitors in December 2011 alone. Even so, Reddit is but a small drop in the proverbial bucket, at least in terms of the Internet as a whole. If Google, Facebook, Twitter and others do decide join in and display their solidarity, then January 18 may be a day people remember.
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