So today the internet went on strike – for good reason. Stupid politicians are trying to censor the internet in the name of protection against piracy (not the pirates who kill people off the coast of Africa, but the geeks with glasses who download illegal files in the basement). Not only is the attempted legislation of SOPA and PIPA stupid because of the potential for abuse of censorship, but it also opens the very scary possibility of having trade wars online, where US companies ask to have global competitors blocked or banned, and vice versa.
So we all agree that SOPA and PIPA are bad, they suck and they should go away.
But I still have a bad taste in my mouth about some of the protests, to the point of agreeing with Paul Carr when he says that it’s silly of Wikipedia to go dark to protest about local US legislation. The reason is simple: SOPA is far from the first legislation implementing DNS-blocking globally (this has even been removed from SOPA). Where were Wikipedia and Google when seven European countries implemented similar legislation? Now the Americans will of course say, silly European – why don’t you get your own companies to protest? But here’s the problem: for a protest to have any kind of effect, it would need to include companies that consumers use every day, and they are – at least on the surface – American right now. Unfortunately, SAP, Spotify and Just-Eat haven’t done much to combat European censorship, and even if they did, I’m afraid it would not make many dents in Fortress Europe when it comes to censorship and DNS blocking.
That’s why Google and Wikipedia suck, because even if they are US-based, they should realise that they have a global reach and responsibility. Don’t get me wrong; I’m very happy that they are doing something: I just wish they had done more, and earlier. We will not gain a free internet just by winning the fight in the US, and that is why it’s hypocrisy when Wikipedia goes black when the US implements SOPA, but didn’t do so when Denmark started blocking foreign betting sites. It is especially dangerous behaviour for a site that is being relied on by users from around the whole world to be neutral: today’s move has shown that these sites are, first and foremost, US organisations.
Nevertheless, we have to start somewhere, and the lack of action previously should not stop us from doing something now. I just wish that these organisation would step up again when censorship is enacted in Germany, Denmark or China, or we will lose Wikipedia for real, because we won’t trust its neutrality.
Personally, I will start by bringing this topic to the table when I meet Neelie Kroes, the EU Vice-President and Commissioner for the Digital Agenda in two weeks’ time as part of a young advisors panel.
That said, happy internet strike day!