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Tomorrow several websites including Reddit, Wikipedia, Wordpress and TwitPic will participate in a 24-hour blackout to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act. A small community of around 30 websites will temporarily shut down to demonstrate how radically different the Internet could look without their presence. Though rumors circulated that Twitter would also participate in the protest, earlier this week officials stated that the site will remain up and running.
For those who may be unfamiliar the story behind tomorrow’s blackout, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is a proposed bill that would drastically change the way people use the Internet. In a nutshell, SOPA seeks to remove copyright-infringing material from the Internet; this could include restricting links to offending sites in search engines, and the removal of certain sites altogether. Its main objective is to protect intellectual property, but many fear that SOPA is blurring the line between upholding copyrights and censoring free speech.
Yesterday Twitter chief executive Dick Costolo reported that Twitter, an outspoken opponent of SOPA, will not be joining the online blackout along with the aforementioned sites. He tweeted: “Not shutting down a service doesn’t equal not taking the proper stance on an issue. We’ve been very clear about our stance.”
Be that as it may, Twitter’s participation in the blackout would certainly carry much more weight than several of the contributing smaller sites. In recent history, Twitter has played an integral role in freedom of speech and enacting or disabling policies worldwide; events ranging from the retraction of Bank of America’s $5 user fee to the Arab Spring have been attributed, at least in part, to protests over Twitter.
The social media giant’s participation in the anti-SOPA blackout is almost necessary to the cause of the protest. More than any other participating site, Twitter has the potential to set off a chain of events that could stop SOPA from being enacted, chiefly because Twitter has proven its ability to wield influence among its millions of users worldwide. Disabling the site for 24 hours would educate people trying to access it about their cause. It might be inconvenient for a day, but in the long run it would mean spreading knowledge of a potentially damaging piece of legislation to hundreds of millions of Twitter users. And as they say, knowledge is power.
With a bill such as SOPA threatening to change the way we use the Internet so significantly, we need the social media giant to flex its muscles, show its strength, and oust the threat of SOPA for good. What do you think? Be sure to leave your opinion in the comments below.