Google Joins Online SOPA Protest
WASHINGTON -- Google will join thousands of tech activists, entrepreneurs and corporations on Wednesday in protesting the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act, a controversial bill that has generated national outrage among Internet experts.
On Wednesday, more than 7,000 websites are expected to voluntarily "go dark," by blocking access to their content to protest the bill, according to organizers of SOPAStrike.com. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid plans to bring the measure to a vote next week. Some of the biggest names on the Internet plan to participate in the blackout, including Wikipedia, Mozilla, Reddit and WordPress. On Tuesday, Google stopped short of vowing to take down its popular search engine, but said it would change its home page to show solidarity with protesters.
"Like many businesses, entrepreneurs and web users, we oppose these bills because there are smart, targeted ways to shut down foreign rogue websites without asking American companies to censor the Internet," said a Google spokeswoman in a written statement provided to HuffPost. "So tomorrow we will be joining many other tech companies to highlight this issue on our U.S. home page."
While Hollywood movie studios and major record labels have lauded the bill as a robust effort to crack down on online copyright violations, Internet experts maintain that the tools proposed for the legislation would hamper efforts to improve online security and threaten the basic functioning of the Internet.
Tech companies have been raising objections to the bill since the Senate version, the Protect IP Act, was introduced last spring. Free speech experts also argue that the measure's basic anti-piracy tool would risk seriously violating the First Amendment in allowing the government and private companies to shut down entire websites accused of piracy without a trial or even a traditional court hearing.
In addition to the Web protests, thousands of New York City tech activists and entrepreneurs are preparing for a Wednesday protest outside the Manhattan offices of Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Kristin Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). Both Schumer and Gillibrand formally support Protect IP. Increasingly in recent years the Big Apple has become an active hub for tech firms, with many new companies and their venture capital supporters locating there rather than Silicon Valley.
The anti-SOPA event is being organized NY Tech Meetup, a trade group representing all aspects of the New York technology community. The group is expecting more than 1,500 members and speakers from leading tech companies to show up at the Wednesday protest, from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m, at the senators' Manhattan offices, at 780 Third Ave.
"We're gonna have people get on a soapbox with a bullhorn," NY Tech Meetup Chairman Andrew Rasiej told HuffPost. "We're not in a theater; we're in the street protesting."
The White House announced on Saturday its formal opposition to SOPA and Protect IP, setting off a legislative scramble on Capitol Hill as lawmakers on both sides of the issue sought to shore up support ahead of the Senate vote.