posted by Thom Holwerda on Wed 4th Jan 2012 10:37 UTC
IconSo, this one slipped by completely undetected late last year (no, I don't grow tired of saying that). CNet reported that Google, Amazon, Facebook, and similarly large, anti-SOPA companies are mulling over the option of taking their websites off the air to replace them with an anti-SOPA message, asking users to contact their elected officials.

The option to let popular websites that oppose SOPA go black as a sort of last ditch effort, a nuclear option if you will, has been bandied about on the web quite often. As it turns out, it's not just some wishful thinking among Redditors and the rest of the web - Facebook, Google, Amazon, and others are actually considering this option.

CNet talked to Markham Erickson, head of the NetCoalition trade association, which consists of, among others, Google, Amazon.com, eBay, and Yahoo. "There have been some serious discussions about that," he told CNet, "It has never happened before."

It would indeed be one heck of a campaign, with possible far-reaching consequences. If Google, Wikipedia, Facebook, Amazon, and others all went black at the same time, with a message urging US residents to contact their elected officials about SOPA, you can bet your sweet bum that the telephone lines in Washington would be red hot.

The impact of such an action would stretch far beyond that, though. Depending on how the blackout is implemented (i.e., will you be able to dismiss the message and continue to the site in question or not), it could even have a financial impact as people all over the world could not get at the right resources to do business, and if Reddit joins in on the fun, many a bathroom visit would become incredibly boring.

Still, it can be incredibly effective. I mean, a message on Tumblr generated a massive 90000 phone calls to elected officials - can you imagine what a message on Facebook and Google would achieve? I doubt mobile phone networks in the US could even carry that load without curling up in a foetal position. Thanks to the magic behind modern technology, it could be directed at US residents only so that the rest of the world can continue to search Google for unicorn pictures.

It's not all well and good - it could also backfire. If the message in question isn't worded carefully enough, people could simply assume the site in question is at fault, and the ire would flow in the wrong direction. I'm pretty sure that, aside from possible financial repercussions for Google, Facebook, and so on, this is the prime argument against a possible blackout.

We'll know for sure January 24, when the SOPA debate in the House of Representatives marches on. Personally, I hope they pull the trigger, since this is something Big Content can't counter. Also, January is generally boring anyway.

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