Websites go dark in SOPA protest

There are big gaps in the internet today, as Wikipedia, Craigslist and other sites black out in protest at the Stop Online Piracy (SOPA) bill.

Google’s blacking out its logo to post a message on its home page reading: “Tell Congress: Please don’t censor the Web!”. Meanwhile, Wikipedia’s English language site is also blank, apart from anti-SOPA messages.

“Wikipedians have chosen to black out the English Wikipedia for the first time ever, because we are concerned that SOPA and PIPA will severely inhibit people’s access to online information,” it says.

“This is not a problem that will solely affect people in the United States: it will affect everyone around the world.”

Dozens of other sites are doing the same.

Hopes of the bill’s demise were raised at the weekend, when the White House indicated that it was unhappy with the bill in its present form. However, the bill’s sponsor, Republican Lamar Smith, has said he plans to continue pushing it, albeit with some amendments.

Under SOPA, the US government gives itself the right to shut down websites believed to infringe copyright, even – indeed, specifically – if the website’s based abroad.

Search engines such as Google could be ordered to delist them and advertisers, service providers and payment companies such as PayPal or VISA barred from doing business with them.

Backed by media companies, through the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America, it’s nonetheless lost the support of many companies which initially backed the bill, such as Sony and Nintendo.

Meanwhile, for those that don’t have a website to shutter, there are plenty of real-world protests planned for today. Demonstrations are planned in New York, San Francisco and Seattle.