Websites Protest Bills That Would Affect Internet

Proposals making their way through Congress are stirring up protest in an unprecedented digital format, as several websites shut down Wednesday.

The proposals, commonly known as SOPA and PIPA, stand for the “Stop Online Piracy Act” and “Protect IP Act.”

People’s Internet surfing may have seemed a little off Wednesday as an online protest was held against the proposals.

Madison College student Kayla Back saw what a lot of people saw Wednesday morning when she visited Google.

“I went on Google and I saw this scary big black thing,” said Back. “And I was extremely confused by that.”

And like scores of Internet users all over the world, Back found other sites addressing a similar issue.

“Then on Facebook, I saw this petition-type thing to sign something about stopping piracy,” said Back. “And something about liberty.”

“This is not a new issue,” said Steve Noll, marketing professor at Madison College. “This has been going on for years.”

Noll applauded sites like Google and Wikipedia for participating in an online blackout. Some sites suspended their services Wednesday to protest two bills in Congress that aim to stop online piracy.

Critics of the bills said the law could unreasonably expand the federal government’s power to affect the Internet.

“I think it opens up to a lot of potential abuse,” said Noll. “Because once you allow people to regulate it, it takes the freedom out of the hands of the consumers and puts it in the hands of people who are really deciding speech ideas, based more on business practices.”

Even University of Wisconsin-Madison’s student-run Badger Herald is taking a stand. The newspaper blacked out its webpage to protest the bills.

“I think the best example is user-generated content would become much more dangerous for websites to host, because then we would then have to be self-policing,” said Herald Editor-In-Chief Signe Brewster.

The Badger Herald’s blackout site asked users to contact their lawmakers.

“I think a lot of people just don’t realize that this is out there,” said Noll.

U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl’s office received about 450 calls on Wednesday alone regarding this issue.