Science, Tech & Environment

SOPA, PIPA opponents celebrate successes, 'more work to do'

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Wikipedia blacked itself out on Wednesday in an effort to educate users about the Stop Online Piracy and Protect IP acts. (Screenshot from en.wikipedia.org.)

The protests over the Stop Online Piracy and PROTECT IP acts on Wednesday had a notable effect.

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Several of the strongest backers of the bill have since done an about-face and said they won't support the bill in its current form. With the Internet coming back to normal — Wikipedia is open, Reddit is running, Google's logo is back as it should be — protest organizers are celebrating what many say was an example of the new media world confronting old media interests, and winning.

Reddit.com's co-founder, Alexis Ohanian, was among the first supporters of the online blackout. He said it's impossible to deny the success had on Wednesday — in physical protests in New York and San Francisco, as well as online.

"That all is a big win, but we're not done yet," Ohanian said. "There's still a lot more work to do."

Some critics called the online protest a form of censorship in and of itself, with big website operators shutting themselves off so their users would have no access to what they sought. There were even comparisons to China, known for its Great Firewall, which allows the government to block any website it deems unfit for Chinese consumption. Other critics asked what right these companies had to take this action, comparing it to if a private utility company decided to shut off the electricity in protest of new government regulations

Ohanian rejected both of those arguments, but especially the comparison to government action in Communist China.

"The actions you saw yesterday were all from the private sector," he said. "These were the organizations alongside the information superhighway. We didn't shutdown the highway, we shutdown the utilities."

And, he says, anyone could have responded to Reddit's shutdown by launching their own version of the site, because the site's source code is open source.

"If someone really wanted to, they could have responded to our website by taking the source code and launching their own Reddit — a Canadian version of Reddit if they wanted to — within minutes," he said.

They also accused the websites of playing fast and loose with the facts, to drum up greater outrage and opposition to the bills.

Ohanian rejected that.

Ohanian also said he expects these sorts of protests to continue — the introduction of a sort of new, grassroots form of protest, giving voice to citizens that have previously only had limited say in how government is done.