Freedom of Speech Under Fire?

Google logo as part of SOPA/PIPA protest

All across the world Wednesday, websites blacked out, censored icons or shut down entirely. The websites are protesting the Stop Online Pirating Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), proposed laws Congress will be voting on which are directed at regulating the internet ostensibly to protect copyrights.

PIPA is focused on the regulation of websites that sell or promote copyrighted goods and activities, especially those outside the United States. The bill was introduced in May of 2011, and is a rewrite of the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA). “PROTECT IP” actually stands for: Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property.

The Stop Online Pirating Act (SOPA) was introduced in October of 2011 in the Senate. It is also geared towards copyright infringements and stopping things like illegal streaming of movies and television shows online. It could allow U.S law enforcement and copyright holders to ban search engine websites from linking to certain websites online. This could seriously lower Internet business, and hurt search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing economically.

Those opposing the bills state that the proposed laws are an attack on The First Amendment. They claim they will cripple the Internet, and that many companies will suffer through loss of advertising. Both Google and Wikipedia have sworn to protest the bills. Wikipedia shut down across the world on Wednesday, starting at midnight UK time, and will be back up today, January 19. Google censored its own logo in protest, and other websites are urging people to call their representatives or sign petitions against the bills.

With the Internet itself still being a new frontier, questions arise as to whether more regulation needs to be placed on websites in order to control the movement of information. As more websites black-out, more people sign petitions, more people wait patiently for the voting of SOPA in February, and PIPA on January 24, activists all around are urging the people to call their representatives and speak their mind on the two bills.