January 18, 2012 – A notable day in information history

Google SOPA 18 January black bar

The only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen. ~Tommy Smothers

In what had an eerie resemblance to a No Email Friday but which occurred for very different reasons, portions of the Internet went dark last week.

On January 18, major Web sites including Wikipedia and Reddit were closed to business. Google did not shut down but covered up its logo with a large black bar, making it look as if the site had been censored.

These were all part of a grassroots effort to protest anti-piracy legislation, namely the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect I.P. Act (PIPA), which had been working their way through Congress.

This is the first time in history that major Web sites banded together in protest and it was largely led by information providers (i.e. Wikipedia and Google), which get more traffic than other sites.

After the protest, dozens of members of Congress as well as the White House dropped their support of the bills and the sponsors of SOPA and PIPA are contemplating considerable changes to the bills.

While some of the Internet sites went a bit overboard with scare tactics about SOPA and PIPA, ultimately the power of the people – and information providers – prevailed. The people spoke and the government listened and made an abrupt about face.

And regardless of any future legislation that may address anti-piracy, January 18, 2012 was a notable day in information history.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex and author of Overload! How Too Much Information Is Hazardous To Your Organization.

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