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Web Giants Consider 'Nuclear Option' Blackout to Fight SOPA (talkincloud.com)
205 points by SRSimko on Jan 5, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 60 comments

It amazes me how many commenters here seem to be missing the point. The point is not to take these sites offline in a kind of "do what we want or you can't have our services" move, but to bring the issue to the attention of everyone who is unaware that this may affect them. These sites have the eyes of millions of americans who are completely unaware of the SOPA threat and turning the sites off for a day, or even showing a "stop censorship" notice will spread the awareness that previously was missing.

Do I think that SOPA and PIPA (please don't forget about mentioning PIPA - Google, Facebook, etc!) are so bad that a complete blackout would be appropriate? Yes, I do.

But I also think that a call to action is even more important, so hopefully they don't just go offline, but present the visitors with an overlay or a widget or something to call their representatives, and with some clear explanation in layman terms of what SOPA and PIPA do.

From the second paragraph:

"If these companies were to take this route, all of these sites would go completely dark save for a message of opposition to SOPA censorship and instructions on how to contact your local representative."

Exactly. Basically everyone else in my entire family has no clue about SOPA, or if they've heard of it, what it really could mean for sites they visit every day.

If web giants -- those that are used most by those unaware or uneducated about SOPA -- were to post a page about SOPA in place of their services, people would have no choice but to take notice and learn what "this SOPA" is all about.

Shouldn't it also be your Job to inform your relatives? Just sayin'

Maybe, but there's a big difference in hearing the "geek in the family" talking about yet another tech subject without really hearing about it anywhere else, vs. visiting a web site only to find it taken down and replaced with a message about SOPA.

My (and many people's) individual words will not have near the impact that seeing giant organizations cooperatively taking action -- by giving up a day's worth of business -- in opposition to something.

That's not to say that we shouldn't try to educate others. But something like this will go so much further -- it will hit deeper and broader.

Very likely that they already explained to their relatives after bringing it up.

I even heard that people in IT have said that other people they work with have no idea about the ramifications of SOPA and many other anti-Internet bills.

I think deliberately "missing the point" in this case is part of their propaganda strategy.

Yes, and at that point it can become an election issue, and then it can be defeated.

"Defeated" as in - no politician would want to be seen anywhere near that bill. It'll get buried, as it should.

And hopefully not "defeated" as in "renamed to 'Flags for Orphans act'"

And hopefully no other similar bill in the future, too.

I dont like the term "nuclear option". The fact that there is no "mutually assured destruction" if they follow-up with this makes this so called "nuclear option" much less scary. Besides it is never been done before, so no one even knows what would be the result.

Saying "Please stand by for a demonstration of relevancy" and doing it would be way more effective

Speaking of "nuclear options", one of the reasons the bombs were dropped on japan in WW2 instead of just sending an "or else!" telegram was that threats would not have been taken seriously until the effect was confirmed - an there were even some doubts on whether it will work at all as designed. Unfortunately it did.

The fact that there is no "mutually assured destruction" if they follow-up with this makes this so called "nuclear option" much less scary.

An earlier discussion proposed a more thorough "nuclear option." Instead of trying to inform the electorate, threaten to cut the supporters off from a lot of prominent Internet-based services. It's also a bit easier to claim moral high ground with a second strike strategy.


One theory for why two bombs were dropped was to intimidate Stalin into thinking there was a production line of such weapons -- ergo, he should stay out of western Europe.

I always thought it was because little boy was made if uranium which japanese intelligence had a pretty good idea of how much the US could produce in a year. Fat man was based on the more readily available plutonium but the detonation was more uncertain. Thus the test bomb produced by the manhattan project was also a plutonium bomb trying out the implosion detonation mechanism. Although never tested before the physics ov achieving supercriticality for a uranium bomb where never in doubt.

Thanks, I didn't know that. As usual it's probably a mix of factors.

"... there were even some doubts on whether it will work at all as designed."

I recall a documentary which said that some physicists believed the bomb could cause a runaway reaction which would consume our entire atmosphere. Maybe we should be concerned about such a reaction resulting from the "nuclear option" for SOPA, or maybe it will just fizzle like a firecracker thrown into a bucket of water.

I understand the negative response to calling this a "Nuclear Option", but I don't understand everyone's negative reaction to the idea. How many 12 - 17 year old kids have any idea what SOPA is? If for the next two weeks all they saw was a "simulated SOPA" on facebook and google, how many do you think would complain to mom and dad? I'm sure plenty of kids of wealthy people have gotten things changed just in the name of shutting them up.

Why hasn't anyone suggested boycotting the media industries? Perhaps I missed it, but are we that materialistic to where no one even considered it? Stop going to theaters, buying from iTunes, cancel netflix. You vote with your dollars.

Education is required before a boycott could possibly be effective. As it stands, a boycott would amount to a headline resembling:

"Hacker News Boycotts Media over SOPA." When questioned, [media exec] responded "We didn't Notice a thing - as a matter of fact, sales were up for the week. Who the hell is Hacker News? Sounds like the group of pirates we're trying to protect ourselves from."

Once everyone understands what SOPA actually is and how it could affect them, a boycott would make sense.

* Fixed Typo.

Education is required before a boycott could possibly be effective.

I understand this completely. A boycott isn't actually a boycott unless the company knows why you are boycotting them, but that is what exactly I'm suggesting. It shouldn't be in the name of anything i.e. "Hacker News". It should be a movement for citizens, by citizens. SOPA is a huge violation of constitutional rights and that should be all the reason needed to initiate a boycott.

Instead of a black out, perhaps every other page load will display an "educational" message for five minutes. Business continues but it's annoying enough to be effective. I'm also not suggesting that google or facebook encourage a boycott as that is just asking for trouble. That's why it needs to be a "civil rights" movement.

All these services have huge audiences. Audiences that money can't buy.

Every one of these services should have a splash page that every user sees at least once. It should explain in simple terms, what SOPA is, why it is on the verge of wrecking the US internet economy.

Time is running out. If these services don't act, they'll eventually be taken down by the political class who can't stand the fact that their power has diminished by the next wave of technology.

No one needs to black out anything, or "go nuclear". Just spread awareness. ASAP

This is what I don't understand. Are these companies so short-sited that they cannot see the potential of their own user base as a massive lobbying arm? Do they secretly support SOPA?

If the main stream media was threatened with a similar type of legislation they would mount an non-stop campaign through their editorials and choice of headlining stories so that their audience was aware of what was happening and how bad the legislation was. This is the reason Rupert Murdoch has so much power.

I was disappointed when Time magazine named "the Protester" person of the year for 2011. A blackout of major web services would amount to little more than a stunt. Sure, the mainstream media will run the story for the first day...but for how long will these services remain willfully unavailable? Who will cave in first and go back online without resolution?

It seems to me that the popularity of activism and protesting do little to affect change, whereas more commonly yes than no they simply represent an inconvenience to everyone else who can't be bothered with another struggle/burden in their lives. There must be more mature and effective means of defeating SOPA than having a group of web services throwing a temper tantrum.

“It seems to me that the popularity of activism and protesting do little to affect change…”

What makes you think that? Most major shifts begin with activism and protests. These are the ways that the populace makes their voice heard in large masses, much like lobbying is typically the way corporations have theirs heard. Sometimes protests go unheeded, and sometimes this leads to revolutions. Other times, the protesters disband without having achieved anything. The protester was named person of the year for 2011 because of the clear effects that protesters did have in 2011—from the Middle East to Europe. The true effects have even been felt here, in the form of the Tea Party, though that was before 2011. Occupy has had less success in achieving concrete change, but plenty of success in achieving shifts in the media narrative.

Moreover, what is immature about this? A temper tantrum? What makes you call this a temper tantrum? Temper tantrums are, by definition, uncontrolled. This is an extremely controlled and planned response. This is law we're talking about. A law that threatens these businesses, and, through them, their customers. But most of their customers have no idea this law is even in the works, or don't really get how it could affect them. What better way is there of telling them the effect beyond... Well... Telling them?

In a functioning representative democracy, there can be no more effective means to defeating a law than informing the public and getting the public to contact their representatives and inform them that there is a problem en masse. This is a means to achieve that.

It's about awareness, there are many many people that aren't educated on SOPA that use these services. If a service like FB or Google does something that interrupts your routine, makes you notice something you might not have understood completely, then something's been accomplished. That's thousands more people that might not have contacted their representatives, that after a 'stunt' like a blackout, may very well make that call or at least send an email.

As for the time article, I don't know how you could be disappointed. It's global. It's Tunisia, it's Egypt, yes even some of the Occupy moments, and others too around the world. Protest, dissent, the idea that you can make a showing and try to make a difference, is important.

Protests work quite well when they have: 1) A clear call to some action 2) That most voters already support, or would if they though about it a bit.

In general protests do decrease popular support for their cause a bit if the protests are disruptive, but they can make up for it by making an issue the focus of wider debate. In authoritarian countries they also let people in the majority figure out that they are in the majority, which is very important when you're trying to figure out if you want to commit to helping to overthrow a regime.

I'd be happy if they just had a Tumblr-like widget to call your representative at the top of the page.

In 1996, many websites turned black to protest the community decency act. It was passed but invalidated by the supreme court. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_World_Wide_Web_protest. Far fewer people were on the internet then, so today, something like that would have a far bigger impact.

I keep seeing talk about this, but it never seems to go beyond talk. It doesn't seem necessary to disable services entirely to get people's attention. Just adding a banner or link would have a huge impact. Consider the impact of adding a link to Google's front page or the Facebook top banner, or even a modified logo, with a link to a page which makes it easy to contact Congress (and which can handle the load).

Why does this require so much talk and so little action? Why do we keep seeing headlines of "consider", rather than the headlines we hope to see of the action taken and the resulting impact?

And with Google Ads Google has a mechanism to very efficiently injecting the message into a plethora of websites.

First, construct a phase 1-blackout. Where any users sees a large screen with info to contact their reps (and then allows them to proceed to the app).

The outcome of this less-abrasive approach may be enough - and if not, Plan B can then be implemented; a complete blackout.

Seems pretty reasonable to me. It's obviously bad business to get involved in politics, but for these companies it's either "Take ourselves offline for temporarily or face the chance of getting put out of business forever."

It's obviously bad business to get involved in politics

Quite the opposite; each dollar spent on lobbying usually produces more than a dollar in government subsidies.

I'd like to see it if nothing else I think it would force those of us who have been to lazy to do something that day... as in "Well I was going to browse around for an hour before doing actual work but with all my sites down guess I'll do this SOPA letter to my representative thing that's been on my ToDo list"

This is a rehash of old news, without actually providing anything new.

We plan to have a splash page up Jan 23rd with info on Sopa and explaining why it's so vital people call their congressional rep.

Site5.com frontpage will be gone for a 24 hour period for it, Thanks, Ben

Would be awesome if someone built a WP Sopa plugin that did this for any WP blog, basically a splash page with how to contact your rep and what sopa could do to the net.

If anyone can build this let me know, we can help you host and get publicity and I'd be willing to pay you for your time if you think it's possible -> bwb@site5.com

It would need to be made soon so it can go to users asap to prep for jan 23rd, Thanks, Ben

I sent you an email. (chris@ctidd.com)

I would definately support a permanent blackout of Paypal. Please turn off and don't come back.

Does http://netcolation.com look fishy to anyone? It has no formal list of members, but instead claims to "represent" Google and others without elaborating as to what this means. It also looks like a part-time operation run by a pair of lawyers.

I am all for a coalition, but this looks odd at best and may easily backfire. If they are assigning themselves to be Google's representatives on the matter, then Google will have no choice but to distantiate from this entity, and this will inevitably be picked up by the media as "Google breaks away from anti-SOPA coalition."


When I read about this "Nuclear Option", I can't help but feel that it is nothing more than a PR ploy. How much money would be lost by companies like Amazon, Google, etc. by shutting their sites down for even a single day? Even more, this sort of stunt would be a Customer support nightmare for any of these companies. Though an interesting threat, it comes off as completely impractical from every angle.

If they lose less money than they would stand to lose should SOPA pass, it's a wise move.

Plus they obviously wont pull down paid services like google apps or AWS, etc.

But why not? I mean if this bill is really passing, like everyone claims, then where is the official information on how the actual language of the bill "changes the internet " as we know it.. I hate SOPA but it does not seem like anybody is doing anything to really stop it. I mean Google, Facebook, etc should stop all activity, shut down for a month and use all its resources to fight this thing with speeches, commercials, cold calling, blah , blah, blah.. If nobody does that then they really don't care or this bill is not as bad as they (Google,FB,etc) say it is.

That's the equivalent of USA blowing up an USA base with nuclear bombs to defend against the invaders. Please take it to them, blow up the invaders in their own bases.

Instead, promote Internet Freedom to replace and outlaw SOPA, DMCA, PROTECT-IP, COICA, CEST, OPENA, ACTA and more.

The pacifist nature of the SOPA movement sucks because it targets one bill, when there's a tsunami of anti-Internet bills.

A scorched earth policy like you describe is bad for both sides, but sometimes the only viable option. Russia used it to thwart both Napoleon and Hitler

FWIW, OpenDNS will not ever shut down our service and I doubt most of those other sites will either.

I keep seeing this "nuclear option" story and it's annoying. We will keep fighting against SOPA, but we won't shut down our service in protest, that would be far worse (and not effective).

They shouldn't do a blackout, they should "flag" links to/pages/accounts of politicians who hasn't pledged opposition to SOPA. If they are in favour of destroying the Internet, they shouldn't enjoy the privilege of having Google and Facebook assist their campaigns.

No, they should do a blackout.

I, for one, would love to see a day (1) without Google. Almost like a moment of silence to realize how far the internet has come since '96. Would bing suddenly gain mass users? Would we rediscover dogpile?

I really don't think this will work because the Government will see it for the empty threat that it truly is.

A Google or a Facebook prove they have the guts to throw their off-switch for anyone to take this seriously.

The goal is to raise awareness. For example, every cable news program in America would cover it as one of the day's top stories. You can't buy that with money.

Technically you could, but you'd need lots and lots of money.

I'm guessing it would be on par with the money they'd lose being offline for even a day.

They could also just block all SOPA voters from access to there services. Most of the pro-SOPA companies have knows IP-ranges.

Instead of a blackout, why not have a period of "IPV6" only?

Because combining two unrelated ideas is confusing (e.g. it would lead people to the false belief that upgrading to IPv6 will negate the effects of SOPA).

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