Thousands of websites shut down access to their content Wednesday to raise awareness about the two internet censorship bills being proposed.
Some of the websites that participated in the protest include Wikipedia, Reddit, Craigslist, Tumblr and Flickr.
The Protect IP Act (PIPA), proposed by the Senate, and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), proposed by the House of Representatives, target foreign websites used to pirate copyrighted material. These bills would give the government the right to enforce any copyright infringement claims made against a website, even those hosted beyond U.S. borders.
The bill does not address many of the aspects of internet use, such as user-generated content.
Many websites are afraid that if these bills pass through Congress then they risk complete censorship by the U.S government due to the actions of their users.
If someone were to post illegal content to a website, the government would be within its right to censor all content hosted by the website.
However, many sites have no way to stop users from uploading content to their servers. These bills could stifle Internet commerce and alter the fundamental structure of information distribution on the Internet.
These bills would cause many websites to implement self-censorship provisions.
Two major supporters of these bills are the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industries Association of America.
They claim the bills are necessary to fight Internet piracy and make the argument that more “reputable” sites would not be affected by the provisions of the bill as the government would not target them.
General reaction from outlets such as news organization and social networking websites feel that the bills simply give the government too much power that could be easily abused.
Those in protest of these bills do not necessarily support Internet piracy but feel that the bills infringe on their rights.
Protestors also argue that the bills are simply overkill and do not address the issue with the attention it deserves.
Voting on the two bills will occur soon. The US Senate will vote on the PIPA bill on Jan. 24.
SOPA has already been introduced to the House of Representatives but a hold has been placed on the bill by key members of Congress and voting on the bill has been pushed back until meetings held in February.