Reddit, the popular link-sharing and social networking site with over 2 billion page-views and 35 million active users a month, is taking the nuclear option in protest about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP draft laws by shutting down on January 18th for 12 hours. During that time, Reddit will suspend its normal operations
"Instead," the Reddit administrators state, "of the normal glorious, user-curated chaos of reddit, we will be displaying a simple message about how the PIPA/SOPA legislation would shut down sites like reddit, link to resources to learn more, and suggest ways to take action. We will showcase the live video stream of the House hearing where Internet entrepreneurs and technical experts (including reddit co-founder Alexis 'kn0thing' Ohanian) will be testifying. We will also spotlight community initiatives like meet-ups to visit Congressional offices, campaigns to contact companies supporting PIPA/SOPA, and other tactics."
The social network isn't, according to Reddit, doing this lightly. "We wouldn't do this if we didn't believe this legislation and the forces behind it were a serious threat to reddit and the Internet as we know it. Blacking out reddit is a hard choice, but we feel focusing on a day of action is the best way we can amplify the voice of the community."
Good for Reddit! I agree completely that SOPA and PIPA are horrible laws with potential to wreck the Internet just so the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and their allies can have a free hand to smash any Website at the barest hint that it might be distributing copyrighted material But, while I applaud Reddit taking a stand, I'm not sure how much good their action will do.
Reddit, especially its SOPA sub-reddit has been a hotbed of organizing resistance to SOPA. If it wasn't for the Internet protests that were organized in part on Reddit, Go Daddy, a prominent Internet domain registry, would still be actively supporting SOPA.
But, since Reddit is already the leading social network against SOPA, their action, while commendable, strikes me as just preaching to the choir. I don't see Reddit's protest having that much of a chance of influencing anyone who's not already aware of SOPA's dangers.
The best thing that I hope will happen from Reddit's protest is that it will inspires sites like Google, Yahoo!, Amazon.com, eBay, Bloomberg, and Wikipedia that reach a broader and largely unaware audience to take similar actions in protest against SOPA. We know, under the umbrella of the NetCoalition, the lobbying group representing leading global Internet and technology companies, that some major Internet companies are considering actively protesting SOPA on their Web sites.
While Facebook opposes SOPA, it doesn't seem inclined to make such a move. Wikipedia, on the other hand, while it hasn't settled on a course of action, is still considering a wide range of possible anti-SOPA protest actions.
If other important Web sites follow up on Reddit's anti-SOPA lead , then more people might wake up to its danger and insist that their Congressional representatives do the right thing and keep their hands off Internet freedom of speech. Still, I want to give a big thumb up for Reddit taking a stand. I hope that other Internet sites will now take up the torch as well.
Reddit SOPA Protest Warrior image by Reddit.