A hugely influential social news website will go offline for 12 hours next week in protest against the US government’s much-maligned Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).
Reddit, a news site where content is prioritised based on voting from users, has enormous sway in the online community. However, many are saying the blackout is preaching to the choir, and for the message to reach the mainstream it will take similarly drastic action from the likes of Google or Facebook.
The blackout will take place on January 18, from 8am to 8pm US time (2am to 2pm on the 19th NZ time).
In a blog post announcing the move, the Reddit team says the action is not being taken lightly.
"We wouldn’t do this if we didn’t believe this legislation and the forces behind it were a serious threat to Reddit and internet as we know it,” the post reads.
"Blacking out Reddit is a hard choice, but we feel focusing on a day of action is the best way we can amplify the voice of the community.”
The blackout coincides with a hearing about Domain Name Server (DNS) and search engine blocking, at which internet experts including Alexis ‘knothing’ Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit, will be testifying.
While commentators have applauded the move, most think it’s going to take something even bigger to make the authorities take note.
Forbes’ Paul Tassi writes, "Chances are if you’re a regular Reddit user, you’re either tech savvy enough to know the dangers of SOPA, or if not, you’ve at least been reading about it on the site’s front page for months.
"Even though Reddit is a massive site, the industry needs a nuclear option to truly decimate SOPA once and for all. Titans like Google and Facebook need to have a similar blackout, which would reach an audience far, far wider than Reddit’s.”
Could Google or Facebook blackout to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act? Post your comments below.
Update: The US senator who introduced the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), the Senate bill which was a precursor to the controversial House bill known as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), has recommended 'more study' before the bill is implemented.
Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy issued the recommendation in response to expressions of concern relating to the part of the bill that allows authorities to ask ISPs to block access to certain 'foreign rogue websites' using the Domain Name system.
"I and the bill's cosponsors have continued to hear concerns about the Domain Name provision from engineers, human rights groups, and others," the statement reads.
"This is in fact a highly technical issue, and I am prepared to recommend we give it more study before implementing it."
Meanwhile, the head of another notable website, Ben Huh of icanhascheezburger, has joined Reddit staff in promising to blackout his site for 12 hours on January 18.
Making the announcement on the fifth birthday of the site, responsible for popularising 'lolcat' pictures, Huh tweeted, "All Cheezburger sites will also be instituting a blackout on January 18 to protest SOPA and PIPA. Now, go ask Wikipedia to do it."