Thanks to Reddit taking the lead – Wikipedia, Boing Boing, Imgur, Tucows, and other websites we love are blacking out their sites on January 18th in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). If you’re part of the Reddit cult, or if you’re just reading this article, you’re probably more well-informed about SOPA and PIPA than the rest of the general public thanks to limited media coverage. It’s up to us to follow their lead and I encourage you to utilize the blackout to be an advocate for the internet. Use that time to inform yourself and others about SOPA, PIPA, and some of the more recent activism happening online and in the world. Here are a few places you can start since the internet will be limited tomorrow!
Become an expert on SOPA/PIPA and share information
Read up on all the scary stuff happening with SOPA. Inform yourself of what is happening, talk to your friends and co-workers, and share stories on social media channels. Check out the following resources about SOPA.
- Stop SOPA, Save the Internet
- Sergey Brin’s public statement on SOPA (hint: share on Google+)
- List of companies that oppose SOPA
Visit Reddit during the blackout
- Reddit will actually be streaming videos of House hearings where people are testifying about the potential blowback of SOPA/PIPA legislation. They will also be posting information about how to contact government offices and companies that support SOPA and PIPA.
Find out where your representatives in Congress stand on SOPA and PIPA
- A roster of Congress members for and against these bills at SOPA Opera.
- Check out the money trail – see which representatives have received donations from SOPA/PIPA supporters.
Find out which companies support SOPA
- Check out Congress’s list of SOPA supporters or download the No More SOPA app for Android.
- Be selective of how you part with your cash! Money equals power, so make sure to use that power wisely and support companies with similar values to yours.
- Voice your concerns and take action! Enough people boycotted GoDaddy for supporting SOPA that the company bowed to the pressure and publicly opposed SOPA. If you can’t boycott a company, at least Tweet at the company or post your concerns in a forum. Not only will you participate in the online conversation, but your comments also get picked up by search engines and affect a company’s reputation.
- Put a face to the people who may lose their livelihood under SOPA legislation. Add a photo of yourself and what you do to the page.
Read about the OPEN Act, a bipartisan SOPA alternate bill sponsored by Republican Representative Darrell Issa of California and Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. So far companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook have shown their support of this alternate bill.
Blackout your own site in solidarity with the SOPA/PIPA protests, but carefully! Read Googler Pierre Far’s Google+ post about how to best blackout your website.
Contact your representative
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a great tool to help you contact your government representatives. Please contact anyone you can, from local representatives to the members of Congress and Senate to voice your opposition to SOPA. Make it clear that they will LOSE YOUR VOTE in the next election if they decide to publicly support these stifling bills. If you choose to write to your representative, use some of these excerpts from public letters to inspire your message. If you’re feeling bold pick up the phone and call their office. Ask to be connected to their legislative assistant handling SOPA and PIPA, and ask what their office’s stance is on these bills. Urge them to consider your concern as a citizen and as a voter in making their decision on this issue. They will mark down your concern, and if they are overwhelmed by phone calls in opposition of SOPA it will definitely be a factor in their decision-making process. Would you rather use 140 characters or less? Tweet at Congress and Tweet at Senate! You don’t necessarily need to live in that Representative’s district to voice your opposition.
Register to vote (if you haven’t already!)
The best leverage you have over any government representative is your vote. 2012 is going to be a huge year with the presidential election and dozens of compelling issues will be on the ballot, some related to internet privacy and some not. As we are connected more than ever to our fellow citizens of the United States and the world, it is up to us to vote and vote responsibly. In some states you can register as a permanent absentee voter, so for the cost of a postage stamp you don’t even have to leave your house to vote. For more information about voter registration check out Rock the Vote.
Learn more about online activism
In 2011 we saw news break on social media more than any other media. We kept up with all the latest news of the Occupy movements, the Middle East uprisings and the Arab Springs, and the Japanese tsunami. We engaged directly with people in the field and on the ground, listened, and shared their stories. It is no accident that social media is one of the most vital tools in this decade’s public movements. Read some of the more recent events in online activism, and truly understand that the tools we touch and type on every day are amazing vehicles that connect us and move us forward.
So, on January 18th you have lots of internet-free time to do something to affect our future. Go be active on social media, email friends, phone your representatives, talk to people, and make sure to start active conversations that day!