With the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), Congress, at the request of big media, is still considering trying to censor the global Internet in the name of preventing media piracy The major Internet companies, who don't like the idea of being forced to monitor customers' traffic and block Web sites suspected or accused of copyright infringement. They don't want any part of being in the Big Brother business. So it is that Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, and Wikipedia appear to all be considering the 'nuclear' option.
According to multiple sources, the nuclear option would mean many major sites would simply and simultaneously go dark. Were you to go to any of them, you'd either find a 404 error page not available message or a page explaining why the site's currently unavailable. The most popular Internet sites would simply go dark.
This is pretty drastic, but then so is SOPA. SOPA, while a proposed American law, attempts to censor sites throughout the world. In effect, as it's currently written, SOPA would try to impose global censorship almost as bad as the Chinese firewall.
But, would simply shutting down major sites that hundreds of millions of users rely on every day actually get the message across? Or, would it simply tick off 99% of the Web using population who couldn't even spell SOPA much less know what it's about? Even today, I find otherwise intelligent Internet professionals who think that SOPA is a good idea. They simply can't see that stopping Internet music and video piracy with SOPA is like burning down a house to get rid of mice.
So, I have a suggestion for the NetCoalition, the lobbying group representing leading global Internet and technology companies, including Google, Yahoo!, Amazon.com, eBay, Bloomberg, and Wikipedia, and which is also a major organizer of the Internet powers' SOPA opposition. Instead of blacking out the Internet, educate it.
Pick a day, a week, when all participating sites will show their visitors a page about what SOPA is, why they're against it, and then list by name the Congressmen and women who are supporting this law and urging everyone to vote against them in the 2012 election. After that, let the visitors go about searching for the latest football scores, a cheap copy of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, whatever.
Even that will annoy most users, but it will get the message across to everyone. What's more important though is that it will deliver the message that we will not stand for SOPA to the people who need to hear the most: the law-makers who've been bought and paid for by big media. If Internet registry Go Daddy can change its spots when it comes to supporting SOPA after it became clear that its customers wouldn't stand for it, I know Congressmen faced with losing their comfy jobs will listen.
Nuclear explosion image by The Official CTBTO Photostream, CC 2.0.