Given the week that just was there's really only one topic I can write about: The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA).
I've discussed these outstanding examples of money-driven legislation several times here in Backspin, the last being my Eighth Annual Gibbs Golden Turkey Awards last November where the sponsors and supporters of these flagrantly unconstitutional bills were awarded the uncoveted Grand Gibbs Golden Turkey Award for 2011 (or, as the French might have it, the Grande Dinde D'Or).
SLIDESHOW: Samples of SOPA blackout sites
Alas, my opprobrium for the bills and their boosters wasn't enough to get them to back off, so earlier in the week, as a protest, a number of major Web sites went "dark" to demonstrate their disapproval of SOPA and PIPA.
For example, on Wikipedia after loading whatever content you were looking for, a message protesting the legislation appeared and that's what you wound up with ... nothing but the protest page.
Other sites staging similar blackouts included Reddit, Mozilla, Twitpic, and, I am told, the Cheezburger network and a Harry Potter themed game site called "Hogwarts New Zealand" (honest).
On the other hand, Google's blackout was purely symbolic with a black band redacting Google's logo on the company's U.S. home page ... cute but hardly as "in your face" as if they had actually stopped serving searches or inserted interstitial protest message pages.
Google's official comment was, "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." They should have added "Just don't expect us to lose any revenue if we can possibly avoid it."
For Facebook and Twitter it was business as usual. Twitter's CEO Dick Costolo wrote, "Closing a global business in reaction to single-issue national politics is foolish," while AOL stated, "We are not adjusting the consumer experience on our properties tomorrow, but we will be helping to drive awareness of key issues around these bills to our users." Their "consumer experience"? Right. Sure.
Facebook also opted out of the blackout with CEO Mark Zuckerberg issuing a weak, hand-waving statement that I won't waste your time on. Way to go, Zuckerberg.
The Motion Picture Association of America, of course, loved the uneven support and commented that "resorting to stunts that punish their users or turn them into their corporate pawns, rather than coming to the table to find solutions to a problem that all now seem to agree is very real and damaging." The solutions that the MPAA wants, of course, are SOPA and PIPA.
In a spasm of irony so ridiculous as to be funny MPAA chairman and CEO, former senator Chris Dodd, wrote of the blackouts, "It is also an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today."
Words almost fail me. Here we have huge public and industry opposition to legislation that is staggeringly, stupefyingly, unequivocally bad for the Internet, bad for business ... in fact, bad in just about every imaginable way, yet major Internet industry players just carry on chasing profits and think that their contribution to the opposition movement, i.e. simply paying lip service, was adequate.
To all of the companies that didn't display their opposition by observing a blackout, who handed out weasel words in an attempt to justify their lack of real solidarity: We know who you are. If SOPA and or PIPA passes, don't think we won't remember that you cared more about your profits than you did about our freedoms.
Gibbs is disgusted in Ventura, Calif. Your anger to email@example.com.
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