In a blog post, community news-sharing site Reddit announced that it will be shutting down normal operations on January 18 in protest of the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA).
From the blog post:
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 everyday. Internet experts, organizations, 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. However, there’s a new hope that we can defeat this dangerous legislation.
We’ve seen some amazing activism organized by redditors at /r/sopa and across the reddit community at large. You have made a difference in this fight; and as we near the next stage, and after much thought, talking with experts, and hearing the overwhelming voices from the reddit community, we have decided that we will be blacking out reddit on January 18th from 8am–8pm EST (1300–0100 UTC).
If passed, SOPA would allow the U.S. Department of Justice and copyright holders to seek court orders against foreign and domestic websites that enable or facilitate copyright infringement. Accused websites would be removed from search engine results, barred from online advertising networks, and blocked from payment processing networks. Sites like Facebook, Wikipedia, YouTube and Reddit could be crippled for hosting or linking user-uploaded content that potentially infringes on copyrights.
The bill would also make the unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content, such as a song or TV show, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.
Reddit’s planned 12-hour blackout coincides with a congressional hearing on SOPA, at which tech and security leaders, including Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian, will air their grievances toward SOPA and PIPA.
During the downtime, Reddit will stream the hearing and display a statement on why this legislation would mean the end of user-generated content sites.
Last month, Reddit user selfprodigy started a boycott against domain-hosting company GoDaddy, for supporting SOPA. Selfprodigy asked domain holders to transfer their websites to other hosting companies. The next day, GoDaddy withdrew its support for SOPA citing a spike in domain name transfers.
On Twitter, reactions to the Reddit blackout have been overwhelmingly positive. The hacker group Anonymous came out in support of Reddit, tweeting a link to the blog post announcing the blackout.
In December, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales considered a site-wide black out to demonstrate what the site might look like should this legislation pass. The blackout never happened, but Wales did withdraw Wikipedia and Wikia domains from GoDaddy as part of the December boycott.
Some suggest that the Reddit blackout could lead to more collective efforts against SOPA. According to VentureBeat, “there have been rumblings that Google, Twitter and Facebook are also planning a collective protest effort against SOPA and PIPA.”