In the end, Wednesday’s SOPA blackout impacted some more than others, but the point that was trying to be made was indeed heard both online and in mainstream media. Opinions of the proposed legislation run the full spectrum and many high profile figures and news outlets have emerged with a particular stance. The proposed bill would impact different people to varying degrees, but everyone that is online has a vested interest in the issue, from bloggers and musicians to SEO firms and marketing consultants.
Looking at specific notable actions that took place on Wednesday though, Google put a black banner over their logo and BoingBoing, Reddit, Wikipedia, and Frank’s Warren’s PostSecret website all shut down for the day. In terms of internet users, over 7 million people have signed petitions Google established opposing both the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) bills, and almost 1.5 million people signed a similar anti-legislation petition at Avaaz.org. People didn’t just sign petitions, however, the web was abuzz with SOPA and PIPA chatter. According to the LA Times, 25,000 WordPress blogs were blacked out and over 12,000 others had a “Stop Censorship” ribbon displayed. Also, according to Twitter there were 2.4 million tweets Wednesday related to SOPA just from midnight to 4 in the afternoon.
Putting Wednesday’s online activity aside for the moment, it is interesting to look at the background of one of the main “protest” actions – Wikipedia’s complete blackout. In response to a proposed new privacy law brought forth in Italy last fall, interestingly, Wikipedia blacked out their Italian pages in protest in the same fashion they did on Wednesday. The proposed law would have required websites to take down information that was identified as defamatory to someone within 48 hours of the complaint being issued. The website would be required to then post a correction written by the party that issued the complaint. If the website failed to do this, they could be fined an equivalent to roughly $16,000. No appeals would be allowed as well, thus raising the concern for abusive censorship.
It is interesting to see the international roots of Wikipedia’s actions earlier this week, but it is also important to consider how search engine optimization could be impacted in Italy if such a law was passed. Reputation management practice, for example, could look significantly different in monitoring for issues, engaging with the creators of these issues, and how the issues could be resolved with and without SEO. Thus, we will keep an eye on any developments with this Italian law in addition to the all-important SOPA and PIPA bills here in the US.