Successful internet blackout, Zuck tweets, but has Don McLean been ripped off?

Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
@[email protected]

Internet blackoutAs you can’t have failed to have noticed, yesterday some of the world’s most famous websites chose a variety of ways to protest against proposed anti-piracy legislation in the United States.

Sites such as Reddit, Wired, Boing Boing and Google either blanked out their content or displayed clear links explaining why they were against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) being debated by Congress.

Wikipedia, for instance, used a simple JavaScript to obscure its website to English speakers (as it happens, that was something that was easy to bypass, as I described to some reader’s consternation and presumably some college students’ relief).

Wikipedia blackout

As a side note, I was bemused to hear that Experian claimed UK visits to Wikipedia were higher than normal on blackout day, with visits to the mobile version of the site (which was not blacked out) up some 14%.

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And it wasn’t just major websites which participated in the blackout – plenty of smallers sites and home-spun blogs jumped at the opportunity to express their dislike for the proposed legislation.

It seems to me like the blackout was a success in at least one way – more people, including those who don’t commonly follow technology news, will now be aware of the proposed US laws and how it might affect them and other internet users.

Indeed, Wikipedia claimed that more than 162 million saw their blackout page, and over eight million went on to look up how to contact their elected representatives’ contact information via their tool.

And I almost fell off my chair when Mark Zuckerberg tweeted – yes, tweeted! – urging Americans to contact their congressmen:

It was the first time Zuck has tweeted in almost three years. I guess he’s not that much into this social media malarkey, so I’m glad he could remember his password.

But it wasn’t just a day for internet celebrities to have their voice heard on the issue. Plenty of regular Joes had their say too, and some folks even found entertaining ways to get their point across – like in this video.

The Day The LOLcats Died - #SOPA #PIPA Protest Song

I wonder what Don McLean thinks about SOPA/PIPA? I wonder even if he knows about this video? He, after all, was the singer-songwriter who composed “American Pie”, well remembered for the line “the day the music died“.

One thing we all should be mindful of, is giving proper credit where it’s due.

The SOPA/PIPA legislation is, in my opinion, daft and unworkable. It’s not going to be effective way of dealing with piracy.

The news that more US lawmakers are withdrawing support for the laws is something that many of us will be relieved to hear.

And if the internet blackout helped make more people understand the concerns and depth of feeling about this flawed legislation, then I think we can say it was a good thing.

Image credit: PSantaRosa’s Flickr photostream (Creative Commons)

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

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