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Local news website OB Rag has joined nationally recognized websites Reddit, WordPress, Wikipedia, and others in shutting down operations today in protest of the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act, a proposal that detractors say would severely and unjustly limit freedom of expression on the internet.

In short, the law would allow the U.S. government to censor websites in the same manner as governments in China, Iran, and Syria do. The stated goal is to block access to copyrighted material accessed without permission, but critics warn that a single comment by a site user that contains a link to banned content could result in the entire website being blocked for American users.

Says Rag writer Doug Porter, active in underground media since the early 1970s, “We’ve been reporting on this for a while now, warning that this proposed legislation sponsored by old media advocacy groups that will have a severely chilling effect on the freedom of expression on the internet.

“Some in the mass media are reporting that these bills are already dead in the water. We wish that were true. President Obama did come out this weekend and said that the White House could not support key provisions in these acts. However, the U.S. Senate version is proceeding to a vote next Tuesday, January 24th. Democrat Harry Reid, long an errand-boy for corporate interests, is leading the way. And if his bill doesn’t make it, the folks over on the House side are marking up a ‘censorship lite’ version for consideration later on.”

Wikipedia offers the following:

“SOPA and PIPA cripple the free and open internet. They put the onus on website owners to police user-contributed material and call for the blocking of entire sites, even if the links are not to infringing material. Small sites will not have the sufficient resources to mount a legal challenge. Without opposition, large media companies may seek to cut off funding sources for small competing foreign sites, even if big media are wrong. Foreign sites will be blacklisted, which means they won't show up in major search engines.

“In a post SOPA/PIPA [PROTECT IP Act] world, Wikipedia — and many other useful informational sites — cannot survive in a world where politicians regulate the Internet based on the influence of big money in Washington. It represents a framework for future restrictions and suppression. Congress says it's trying to protect the rights of copyright owners, but the ‘cure’ that SOPA and PIPA represent is much more destructive than the disease they are trying to fix.”

Wikipedia offers this link for readers to consider while their site is voluntarily crashed. OB Rag staffers, self-described as “Freaks, Uppity Women and Politicos,” advises the following:

“Other sites like Google will be up, but will feature links that allow you to let Washington know how you feel. We hope that you’ll take a few moments out of your day to join in this cause.

"In fact, other than sending your Congresscritter an email, Wednesday might be a good day to take the day off from the internet. Just go to the beach. Or visit a public library. Or...”

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Ponzi Jan. 18, 2012 @ 8:12 a.m.

The government is more frightened of the internet than it is of gun ownership. That’s because they know they can outgun us, but they can’t out smart us. The government sees what happens in countries where the internet is used to assemble people and to employ social networks to spread the word fast. The government is concerned about direct democracy and revolt. The think tanks warn the government about various scenarios of civil unrest that may occur and the best way to curtail such events it to control the content and communication over the internet. It has little to do with piracy, but piracy makes a convincing reason for politicians to support censorship dressed as a Trojan horse.


dwbat Jan. 18, 2012 @ 8:58 a.m.

Right, Big Brother wants to keep its big eye on US, but doesn't like it so much when we keep a collective eye on THEM.


BradleyFikes Jan. 18, 2012 @ 9:38 a.m.

The broad ideological reach of the opposition to the censorship bills is making a difference. Lefty Democrats and righty Republicans have joined Libertarians in protest, so it's truly a nonpartisan movement in favor of free speech.


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