SOPA: Lash Out is better than Black Out

Once again, lawmakers are considering a stupid protectionist measure and this time it’s the US, so it has some effects outside the US too.

Once again, some websites have taken themselves offline and caused great inconvenience to their supporters.

This is really annoying. Protesting about threats to take websites offline by taking websites offline is as stupid as protesting against a ban on kissing by not kissing. It just demonstrates that you can do without your websites/kisses if you must.

I feel it’s much better to use websites to distribute information and call people to action, like this epetition for UK citizens and residents, or by asking your associations and suppliers to oppose these measures and their supporters.

Wikipedia is probably a bit to blame. Although it called its action a blackout, it wasn’t one and there were still many ways to access its information. In fact, if you use NoScript, the banner didn’t even display and there’s only a line on the front page to say anything is happening.

The one that really annoyed me was identi.ca, which even turned off its API so clients just started spewing errors everywhere (I returned to my desk to a stack of retry questions). That stopped some of my websites from distributing a link to the anti-SOPA epetition because they read from my identi.ca stream – how much other anti-SOPA activism was hindered?

I’ve been told that Evan held a vote, but I didn’t see it, so I didn’t vote and I don’t know the turnout or anything. How many people voted for the blackout because they use other sites like twitter more anyway?

Banners: yes; Blackouts: no.

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6 Responses to SOPA: Lash Out is better than Black Out

  1. James Cranch says:

    I disagree. Banners get filtered out subconsciously; blackouts can’t be. What has today done for regular-but-casual internet users? Almost nobody knew about these laws yesterday, almost everybody knows about them today. It’s been an excellent protest.

  2. You’re missing the whole point. It’s not about threatening to take sites offline. No one is making threats. Instead, people are raising awareness for others who aren’t familiar with the bills. That awareness includes showing the general public what taking a website down could mean.

  3. mjr says:

    I think you’ve misread one bit: it’s the lawmakers who are the threat here.

    I feel awareness could be raised just as well by banners on each page. These blackouts aren’t what it will look like if sites are taken offline – they’ll give a not found error like you’ve mistyped, not a pretty banner. The blackouts are unnecessary trouble for supporters.

  4. Ryan says:

    I think that you make a fair point. I had many “doh” moments yesterday trying to access sites that were blacked out, and was grateful that twitter had not blacked out, as it provided a way of spreading and gauging the meme.

    On the other hand, I think that the inconvenience to the users was an essential part in helping people to realise the importance of the issues being raised. On many sites, the banner alterations were barely noticeable, and a dismissable popup on wikipedia, would not have been nearly as effective in gaining wider attention.

  5. mjr says:

    (Hello again Ryan. I hope things are going well at 3CA.)

    I feel that another way was possible: something more noticable than a banner in a usual banner space, but less completely crippling to our supporters. The wikipedia pop-up might not have been dismissable, but it was completely invisible to me and many others. Meanwhile, some other protests meant that certain actions, mostly community work, just couldn’t be done for part of yesterday, if at all.

    I suspect the main reason the protest got wider attention was because the wikipedia banner completely bamboozled a load of mainstream media workers.

  6. mjr says:

    So what are you doing about ACTA? It’s pretty bad and it’s in the UK: http://www.news.software.coop/two-campaigns-one-spot/1262/

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