Google has announced that it will post a message on its home page tomorrow, January 18, in protest of the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) and the “PROTECT IP Act” (PIPA), reports CNet. The plan follows pressure from the opponents of these anti-piracy bills for the far-reaching search engine to black out its pages in protest of these bills, which critics say could have detrimental consequences to freedom of speech, Internet-related entrepreneurship, and the infrastructure of the Internet itself. Google’s plan is not a full blackout, as critics had hoped, but it is a proactive stance.
“Like many businesses, entrepreneurs and web users, we oppose these bills because there are smart, targeted ways to shut down foreign rogue websites without asking American companies to censor the Internet,” said a Google spokeswoman in a statement to Cnet. “So tomorrow we will be joining many other tech companies to highlight this issue on our US home page.”
Google, along with Facebook, eBAy, AOL, Yahoo, Zynga, LinkedIn, Mozilla and Twitter, came out strongly against SOPA and PIPA back in November, when they released a full-page ad in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and the Washington Times, denouncing the Hollywood-backed legislation. Since then, hundreds of other companies, websites, non-profit organizations, educators, lawyers, entrepreneurs and countless private citizens have come out against the sibling bills.
Google in particular has come under fire from supporters of SOPA and PIPA. It a tweet on Saturday, News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch, a staunch supporter of the bills, lambasted the Internet giant as a “piracy leader” that profits off of websites that illegally distribute copyrighted material by selling advertising around their content, and on their search engine, which links to such sites. And Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the chief sponsor of SOPA, issued an official statement in which he accused Google of “spreading lies” about the bills because it has “a vested interest in preventing Congress from stopping rogue sites.”
SOPA, the House version, and PIPA, the Senate’s version, are nearly-identical bills that aim to curb the illegal spread of copyrighted material by “foreign rogue sites,” websites that are run outside of the United States, and are not subject to US law. Critics say that the language of each of these bills is too broad, and will adversely affect innocent websites, stifle freedom of speech by blocking legitimate websites, and could harm the Internet’s underlying infrastructure by restricting access to websites accused of infringement using a technique called DNS blocking, which makes it impossible to visit a website by typing in its domain name. In an attempt to mollify critics, both Rep. Smith, and Sen, Patrick Leahy, chief sponsor of PIPA, have agreed to remove the DNS blocking provisions from their bills.
The critics, however, remain as committed to crushing SOPA and PIPA. Google joins sites like Wikipedia, Reddit, Mozilla, the Cheezburger Network, and countless others, who have vowed to “black out” their sites (i.e. replace regular content with a page protesting SOPA/PIPA) for 12 to 24 hours on Wednesday to spread their message about these bills past their current reach.
As of this weekend, the focus has shifted from SOPA to PIPA as the primary threat, since House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has declared that SOPA will not come up for a vote before consensus on the bill can be reached. PIPA is scheduled to go before the full Senate for a procedural vote to begin debate on the bill on January 24.
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