January 16, 2012

SOPA/PIPA Protest Blackouts Are Misguided

A number of major Internet sites have announced plans to "blackout" this coming Wednesday -- that is, block users from most or all access to their normal site resources -- to protest against SOPA/PIPA for up to 24 hours.

Since it is widely known how strongly I oppose these legislative nightmares, a number of site owners have asked if I would recommend that they join in this form of protest.

I have told them that I definitely advise against this protest method.

Most widely used Internet sites in particular have spent a great deal of time and effort to create reliable destinations on which users can depend -- for applications related to communications, work, school, and all manner of queries, concerns, and discussions.

As much as I abhor SOPA and PIPA, I do not feel that voluntarily cutting the Internet community off from important resources for significant periods of time is an appropriate course of action. It penalizes vast numbers of Internet users around the globe, not specifically the proponents of SOPA and PIPA.

Rather than "blacking out" a site (and presumably only displaying information about how to fight SOPA/PIPA. with access to normal functions unavailable), a far more logical, sensible, and prudent approach, that would likely be even more effective in this battle, would be for protesting sites to display a "splash page" with information explaining how to contact your Congressional representatives and express your displeasure with these legislative efforts.

Splash pages could either time out automatically and continue through to the normal site after some number of seconds, and/or permit users to click through to the regular site resources after some specified period of time (again, some number of seconds).

It's possible to present an "in your face" protest of SOPA/PIPA, with meaningful links and information for battling these abominations, without cutting off users from the site resources themselves.

The website resources blackout approach is misguided and -- even with the most laudable of motives -- essentially irresponsible.

That's my opinion, anyway.

All the best to you and yours on this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.


Addendum (2:25pm): I might add that apart from the discussion above, history suggests that this type of protest -- likely to flood Congressional phone lines for a day or two -- is among the least effective, almost certainly to be relegated to the category of mass mailings and other directed protests. Personal letters and other unscripted communications with Congressional representatives can most definitely have a positive impact, but politicians have learned over the decades that the high volume, organized, "call your congressman" protests tend to be the least meaningful.


Posted by Lauren at January 16, 2012 12:11 PM | Permalink
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