Black Wednesday for Websites
18 Jan 2012
ARTICLE 19.org has joined websites around the world in standing up against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), that are currently being debated by US Congress, by blacking out its webpage from 1pm to 1am Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).
US Congress claims that the SOPA and PIPA were proposed in the name of stopping online piracy and to help protect the rights of creators. However, these acts come at the expense of free speech or due process and pose a serious threat to the integrity of the internet.
If passed, they would allow for censorship of the internet using the same tools that are used to silence political dissenters and activists in countries including China, Iran, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. It will stifle free speech, innovation and undermine internet security, all for the sake of Hollywood studios.
“It is unacceptable to tell oppressive governments not to censor the internet for political purposes if the US and Western governments are prepared to do the same for the sake of Hollywood studios selling more DVDs. The US government cannot credibly promote internet freedom abroad if it does not take it seriously at home,” said Dr Agnès Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director.
PIPA will also affect non-US websites and users. By encouraging a take-down by default approach by internet service providers and domain registrars, millions of innocent websites could be taken down, restricting the free flow of information and users’ right to seek, receive and impart information, protected by international human rights law.
Foreign websites will have to both comply with the legislation of the country in which they are operating and US law or else risk losing access to payment providers, advertising and links to their site. This will affect scores of small businesses who may end up losing their funding because of one infringing link when the rest of the website contains perfectly legitimate content.
Importantly, both SOPA and PIPA send an unequivocal message that censoring the web is not only acceptable, but encouraged.
“ARTICLE 19 calls on US legislators to stand up for human rights and internet freedom by rejecting this legislation. We also call on all those who value internet freedom, to join ARTICLE 19 and organisations worldwide in this blackout campaign” continued Callamard.
Together with 50 other organizations, ARTICLE 19 sent a letter to the US Senate on 16 January 2012 to protest against this legislation earlier this week.
- The letter to the US Senate on PIPA can be accessed here