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Trevor Blake: SOPA / PIPA Blackout, Left and Right

I believe in the complete freedom of thought and speech […] I believe that it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than be ignorant . – H. L. Mencken


In carrying out this protest, is Wikipedia abandoning neutrality?

We hope you continue to trust Wikipedia to be a neutral information source. We are staging this blackout because (as Wikimedia Foundation Trustee Kat Walsh said recently), although Wikipedia’s articles are neutral, its existence is not. For over a decade, Wikipedians have spent millions of hours building the largest encyclopedia in human history. Wikipedia is a tremendously useful resource, and its existence depends upon a free, open and uncensored Internet. SOPA and PIPA (and other similar laws under discussion inside and outside the United States) will hurt you, because they will make it impossible for sites you enjoy, and benefit from, to continue to exist. That’s why we’re doing this.

Today, 18 January 2012, a number of the websites I read have made their content inaccessible or difficult to access in protest of two proposed laws in the United States.  These laws (Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act) seem likely to have a chilling effect on the internet.  If I’m understanding these laws correctly, my linking to a site that in turn links to a site found to be in violation of copyright laws would get me in trouble as well as the site I link to.  As I am unable to monitor the content of the sites I link to in my 19,100+ blog posts, I may unknowingly be in violation of these laws when all I wanted to do was point out a funny video or an interesting article.

I make it a point to read across the political spectrum.  This is my greatest hope to foster ongoing critical thinking, and often I learn of laws or events from one side of the sausage factory that the other side of the sausage factory is silent about.  That silence may be based on ignorance or it may be a willful silence.  Whatever the reason, I am not diminished by taking in more information.

I note that the SOPA / PIPA blackout is not common to sites that are likely to self-identify as ‘not-left.’  I use the vague term ‘not-left’ deliberately.  My compilation of this list is no claim that these sites are of a kind, aside from a likelihood they would not identify as being on the political left.  How far not-left they are, how that is manifest, varies.  The sites I list below are not necessarily aware of or in agreement with each other.  I am certain that some of them are antagonistic to each other.  Inclusion in this list is not at all a claim that anyone on this list agrees with or is aware of anyone else on this list.  I have looked at each of these sites at least briefly, and I can say that I also do not agree with the entire content of each one.  The problem with SOPA / PIPA is it applies the contagion theory to information: if I link to a site, I’m guilty of what that site contains.  If you think my linking to these sites contaminates me, then I suggest you speak out in favor of SOPA / PIPA – and reconsider reading my site any more, lest you yourself be contaminated.  At the same time, I caution the reader that some of the following sites are factually incorrect, mean spirited, possibly illegal outside the United States, discriminatory and almost certainly not to be read at work.  To the best of my ability, I have confirmed that these sites all reside in the United States.

The Occupy movement in the United States has been allowed months of free speech, then had it taken away.  American Renaissance has been denied a single second of public meeting time for two years.  Occupy is decidedly ‘not-right’ and American Renaissance is decidedly ‘not-left,’ but both share the thirst for freedom of speech and association.  All ‘not-left’ sites are at risk from SOPA / PIPA.  But few ‘not-left’ sites are participating in the blackout today.

Not-Left Sites Critical of SOPA / PIPA:

Not-Left Sites Not Discussing SOPA / PIPA