As many/most of you know by now, a number of high-profile sites around the web “went dark” today, taking part in a fairly large-scale protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA), two pieces of landmark legislation currently being considered by the United States Congress. Despite their seemingly honorable-sounding names, SOPA and PIPA are, to put it politely, “ill-advised.” To put it bluntly, they’re fuck-stupid, carrying with them the potential to cause vast harm to innocent parties while doing little to nothing to address the actual problems of copyright infringement and intellectual property theft.
One of the more prominent sites to participate in the blackout was Wikipedia. You can read the explanation behind their decision here: Wikimedia Foundation – English Wikipedia anti-SOPA blackout.
Along with Wikipedia, other big-time and not-so big-time sites across the web either went dark or at least posted some form of protest on their sites. Included among the “major players” was Reddit. WordPress.org and, of all things, ICanHazCheezburger.com. What? No LOLcats? Oh, HELL no. THIS CANNOT STAND, bitches.
Anyway, the notable lack of access to Wikipedia brought with it an unending stream of jokes at the site’s expense (these, in addition to the heat it already takes–fairly or not–so far as its reliability as an information source). Naturally, I got in on the act starting yesterday, when I stated on Twitter, “For 24 hours Wikipedia will be offline, defying the efforts of students the world over to cherry pick shit for their essays and term papers.” And just to rile up certain folks, I also said, “BREAKING: http://FoxNews.com to run nothing but actual, factual news tomorrow in protest of #SOPA.”
Yes, I know. I’m a smart-ass. Have we met?
Now, today, in an (English-speaking) world without Wikipedia and other sites, Twitter was the place to watch the “blackout” unfold in real time. One of the better Twitter trending topics was “#FactsWithoutWikipedia,” in which Tweeters took a page from the Fox News playbook and just made shit up. For example:
@jimgeraghty The Keystone XL Pipeline would ensure U.S. access to a steady supply of beer. #factswithoutwikipedia
@dvnix Sarah Palin successfully defended South Carolina from marauding Northerners in 1857. #FactsWithoutWikipedia
@tinastullracing Before Sir Isaac Newton invented gravity in the 17th century, everything had to be nailed down. #FactsWithoutWikipedia Quote UNK
Naturally, I couldn’t resist tossing in some my own. Here’s my list of contributions:
- Bigfoot is a cyborg created by aliens to protect them & their secret underground complex in the California mountains. #factswithoutwikipedia
- Aliens embedded secret msgs into porn tapes, which were never heard since everyone fast-forwarded through the tapes. #factswithoutwikipedia
- LOLcats once ruled the earth. Contamination from exposure to humanity eroded their once superior intellects. #factswithoutwikipedia
- Apollo 18 was a cover story invented to deflect attention from Apollo 19. #FactsWithoutWikipedia
- Soylent Green is people. #FactsWithoutWikipedia
- Playboy has printed the exact same “articles” in every issue of their magazine since Day 1. #factswithoutwikipedia
- Those really were the droids they were looking for. #FactsWithoutWikipedia
- Gandalf is an homage to Obi-Wan Kenobi. #FactsWithoutWikipedia
- The only way to become a comic book writer is to be bitten by another comic book writer. #FactsWithoutWikipedia
Of course, Wikipedia will be back tomorrow, and the world will be a more factual, accurate place, right?
Setting aside all of the funny, the issues surrounding SOPA and PIPA and the potential they carry for rampant abuse are not joking matters. If you’ve not already done so, contact your congressional representatives and let them know you oppose this legislation and that they should, too. The blackout protests and other online discussions and actions seem to be having an effect, in that politicians and businesses who once supported the legislation are now backing away from it. Get educated on the bills, spread the word, and join the fight!
For more information:
Stop American Censorship
Electronic Frontier Foundation: How PIPA and SOPA Violate White House Principles Supporting Free Speech and Innovation
John Scalzi’s Whatever: On SOPA/PIPA (For the People Who Aren’t Blacked Out)