Censorship Update: Writers Beware!
Last month, I published a post explaining how SOPA, PIPA, and other censorship initiatives affect writers. Put simply, censorship is bad for writers. In fact, it’s terrible. Free speech is essential to anyone who writes or creates art.
This month, on January 24, the U.S. Senate will meet to take a closer look at PIPA. There are plenty of senators who have already stated support for the bill, many of whom have received significant campaign funding from the very entities that are pushing bills like SOPA and PIPA.
The Internet Goes on Strike
But the Internet isn’t having it. Webmasters, bloggers, Tumblrs, Tweeters, and Redditors are banding together to fight against these bills. Ordinary citizens of the web are expressing opposition to censorship in creative ways: making art, censoring their avatars and websites, calling their senators and representatives, signing petitions, and organizing a coordinated strike.
The big players are lining up too. WordPress and Creative Commons have recently issued official statements opposing these bills. Other opponents of the bills include Mozilla, Facebook, Ebay, Twitter, Tumblr, and Google.
Tomorrow, on January 18, the Internet will go on strike. Participating websites will essentially shut down and replace their content with information about these bills. The goal of the strike is to show opposition to the bills but more importantly to inform the public and encourage people to take action.
Reddit, Cheezburger Network, Boing Boing, and Wikipedia have all announced that they will join the strike. The confirmed list of participants is big and growing fast. It’s available at sopastrike.com.
On social media sites, especially Twitter, there is a constant stream of remarks on these issues with a good chunk of those tweets pleading with sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to participate in the strike in some way. Their participation could tip the scales.
Lack of Media Coverage
One of the biggest problems with SOPA and PIPA is that most people aren’t aware that the bills are being considered. Prime time television news coverage on SOPA and PIPA has been lacking (which isn’t surprising, considering many of those networks are owned by the very corporations that are trying to pass the bills).
So, if everybody’s favorite websites simultaneously go dark and offer one common message and call to action, those Senators will get a whole lot of phone calls and emails. Some say that by striking for mere minutes, Facebook alone could get the bill killed by sending a massive number of users to flood politicians with calls and emails.
What You Can Do
There are some quick and easy steps you can take to actively oppose SOPA and PIPA:
- Visit AmericanCensorship.org. The site has quick links that U.S. citizens can can use to call senators, email representatives, and let them know that you’re a voter and/or citizen who opposes SOPA and PIPA. The site also offers actions that non-U.S. citizens can take. Censorship and blacklisting in the U.S. will affect websites worldwide.
- Got a WordPress website? Get the Stop SOPA Ribbon. Writing Forward is proudly displaying it in the upper right-hand corner. It took less than two minutes to install. There are several other anti-censorship plugins available.
- Join the SOPA Strike tomorrow, January 18.
- Use Twitter to express your opposition with hashtags: #SOPA, #PIPA, #SOPASTRIKE, and #PIPABlackout. Tip: use one hashtag per tweet.
- Put a SOPA badge on your social media profiles. Then, tweet about it. Talk about it. Let the world know that censorship is wrong and you’re fighting against it.
Prepare for the Long Haul
My gut tells me this fight is just beginning. This isn’t the first time the U.S. government or big businesses have attempted to take control of the Internet or pass censorship legislation and it won’t be the last. As a copyright holder and content creator, I am concerned about copyright theft and want to see online piracy curbed but not at the cost of blacklisting or censorship, especially since most objective legal experts agree that SOPA and PIPA give the government and big corporations undue power while putting free speech at risk. These experts have also stressed that the bills do absolutely nothing to stop piracy because there are glaring loopholes that these pirates can easily use.
I’m also not crazy about taking time away from Writing Forward’s focus, which is, of course, creative writing. But censorship is specifically dangerous to writers and artists, and in today’s market, we writers need the Internet as it has become the foremost tool in distributing, marketing, and promoting written works. I feel strongly that this issue is critical and of great concern to writers, so I hope you will join me in standing against any attempt at censorship or internet blacklisting.
And as always, I hope you keep writing.
“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” ― Benjamin Franklin
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