Opponents of the Stop Online Piracy Act won an important, but temporary, victory this month when the House Judiciary Committee hit the pause button on the disastrous legislation. Despite this, as Nancy Scola details, the fight is far from over and SOPA is still favored to pass.
One major tactic that might truly derail the bill would be if the biggest websites in the country were to temporarily shut down their services and instead inform visitors of the dangers of SOPA. Remarkably, it now appears as though a coalition made up of fifteen online titans is seriously considering doing exactly that:
When the home pages of Google.com, Amazon.com, Facebook.com, and their Internet allies simultaneously turn black with anti-censorship warnings that ask users to contact politicians about a vote in the U.S. Congress the next day on SOPA, you'll know they're finally serious.
True, it would be the political equivalent of a nuclear option--possibly drawing retributions from the the influential politicos backing SOPA and Protect IP--but one that could nevertheless be launched in 2012.
"There have been some serious discussions about that," says Markham Erickson, who heads the NetCoalition trade association that counts Google, Amazon.com, eBay, and Yahoo as members. "It has never happened before."
The NetCoalition is made up of AOL, eBay, Facebook, foursquare, Google, IAC, Linkedin, Mozilla, OpenDNS, PayPal, Twitter, Wikipedia, Yahoo! and the Zynga Game Network. If all of these websites were to act simultaneously, both national commerce and the day-to-day life of the majority of Americans would be disrupted with an anti-SOPA message.
Whether even that dramatic move would stop SOPA is impossible to know, but at the very least it would mean that SOPA and PIPA would no longer be niche issues that relatively few Americans have heard about. While nothing would be guaranteed, sunlight can sometimes be the best way to stop bad legislation.