SOPA: Anonymous To Protest Anti-Piracy Bill On January 18 (UPDATE)

01/12/2012 10:57 am ET | Updated Jan 12, 2012

Dissent over Congress' controversial anti-piracy bills continues to mount.

Late Wednesday night, hacker group Anonymous announced that it would go silent on January 18 to show solidarity with other groups protesting the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA).

As pointed out by the Inquirer, active Twitter handle @AnonymousIRC, managed by members of the hacker-activist collective, will go silent next Wednesday, the same day the House Oversight Committee will hold a hearing to consider SOPA's impact on the web.

Anonymous IRC shared its plan in a tweet, seen below.

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If passed, SOPA would allow copyright holders to seek court orders against websites accused of enabling copyright infringement. The offending sites could then be dropped by advertisers, removed from search engine results and barred from using payment processing networks. Opponents say SOPA and PIPA could do significant damage to websites that rely on user-uploaded content like YouTube, Wikipedia, Facebook and community news-sharing site Reddit.

On Tuesday, Reddit announced via blog post that on January 18 it would be shutting down normal operations for 12 hours in protest of SOPA and PIPA. Anonymous IRC has been urging everyone from its Twitter followers to Google and Wikipedia to follow Reddit and go quiet on that day.

In December, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales mulled the idea of a site-wide "blank out," but ultimately decided against it after engaging with readers on his Wikipedia "talk page." Following Reddit's announcement on Tuesday, however, Wales again took to his talk page, this time weighing the possibility of a Wikipedia blackout seemed more than hypothetical.

Wrote Wales:

I'm all in favor of it [a January 18 blackout of Wikipedia], and I think it would be great if we could act quickly to coordinate with Reddit. I'd like to talk to our government affairs advisor to see if they agree on this as useful timing, but assuming that's a greenlight, I think that matching what Reddit does (but in our own way of course)[...]

This isn't the first time Anonymous has threatened action against SOPA. According to Cinema Blend, when the prolific hacking group learned in December that Sony supported SOPA, the group sent a letter calling Sony's stance a "signed death warrant" and vowed to "destroy" the company's massive cloud-based gaming network. According to Slash Gear, Sony dropped off the official list of SOPA supporters shortly thereafter, although it's unclear whether this decision had anything to do with the Anonymous threats.

Around the same time, domain registrar GoDaddy was revealed as another supporter of SOPA. A boycott that originated on Reddit influenced GoDaddy to reverse its position on the controversial bill.

Despite some successes, opponents of online copyright infringement legislation face a high hurdle. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) made an appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week to discuss the urgency surrounding the SOPA and PIPA controversy. “This is a crucial window here for those who want to see the Net come out of this debate without this enormous collateral damage [by these bills],” Wyden said at a CES appearance, according to Forbes. “We are not prepared to say that this juggernaut for innovation and freedom and citizen empowerment, the Internet, ought to be dealt such a serious body blow in the name of copyright.”

UPDATE: Cheezburger Network CEO Ben Huh announced via Twitter that all sites belonging to the Cheezburger Network, including I Can Has Cheezburger?, KnowYourMeme and The Daily What, will go dark on January 18 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in protest of SOPA and PIPA. See Huh's tweet below.

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