Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Google will protest SOPA using home page (cnet.com)
502 points by GBond on Jan 17, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 104 comments

Google going dark would have been the most dramatic protest, of course, but I applaud them for this action.

I can't imagine Google taking the financial hit that would come from going dark for 24 hours, and I'm not certain how much more impactful that would have been, anyway.

I wonder, though, if they plan to include the SOPA message on their results pages as well? The Google home page is only seen by people who begin their searches at Google.com instead of using a browser toolbar or one of the myriad affiliate search boxes out there.

Even not considering financials, I'd expect at least 1 death from people looking up medical information and not being able to get it if Google was entirely gone for a whole day.

EDIT: Of course most reasonable people will contact a medical professional rather than an internet search engine, that's why I guessed "at least 1" instead of "at least a couple hundred".

Turning google of would effectively turn the internet off for many people. Not sure about deaths (it's possible I guess). I could see the following implications:

Tech support line for every ISP would be ringing off the hook all day. The same for IT support providers as people assume their PC has been hacked or has a virus.

Google receive 1000s of complaints from people swearing to move to bing.

A number of companies get sued due to contractual agreements that somehow relate to websites being accessible to search etc or because emails are not replied to because someone couldn't access their webmail etc.

Hundreds of thousands of homework assignments are not done.

Spike in number of births due to people having sex instead of going online.

SOPA still gets passed.

Google going dark would be extremely interesting and a valuable lesson for society (that it will fail to understand of course).

True, but I don't think it's a lesson that google wants them to learn.

All those homework assignments are done using Wikipedia. It will be very interesting to see what will happen tomorrow when people can't look up stuff there.

Probably the same way I did before Wikipedia: by Googling the topic.

It's nice having all the relevant references on one page, but search results aren't usually too difficult to master either.

Of course, this would need to be weighed against the probability that if SOPA passes, someone _else_ could die from not being able to look up some information because of SOPA.

I am against this bill, but this kind of comment is absurd. SOPA could censor Google when it comes to piracy (and as most things do, it will end up being corrupt for many more things), but I fail to see how important information to save lives would be blocked. The Government will not take down Google and most normal searches would be intact.

The bills need to die, but sensationalism is not the way to stop it.

(Do you agree that "Having Google's DNS blacked out because Google linked to a copyrighted sitcom transcript" a possible outcome if SOPA passes?)

My comment was that you need to calculate the expected loss on both sides: if you do something and if you do not do it.

I wasn't even claiming that Google _does, in fact, save lives_; I was claiming that if you say "X will be lost if Y is done", you need to also say ", which is better than the expected Z loss if Y is not done".

Please do not insert your assumptions into my comment.

  Do you agree that "Having Google's DNS blacked out because Google linked to a copyrighted sitcom transcript" a possible outcome if SOPA passes?
No. Absolutely not.

Is your reasoning because "The Government will not take down Google and most normal searches would be intact."? I am not sure I would put too much faith in the thinking that Google will get special dispensation from the government because it is so useful to so many people. Google is vulnerable to SOPA. In fact they are vulnerable on more than one front.

I think the problem here is that google, and potentially any company, would be well within their rights to sue the federal government for damages and let a judge determine the merit for the take down.

Given that google makes approximately 3.5 million USD an hour, a take down and lengthy court battle could put the federal government on the line for billions of dollars. Not only in damage to revenue, but in loss of customers and customer conversion. If google lost even 1% of its users the government could have to pay for loss of future income.

IMO stopping SOPA/PIPA is protecting the government itself. A law isn't real until its tested in the supreme court. The major Tech companies run patent cases against each other like they're just trying to keep their lawyers busy. I don't know why the government would want to get on the wrong side of these multinational corporations. Sorry, but if too great an expense is placed on them by the government then it'll quickly become surprisingly cost effective to move entirely overseas.

Honestly I wouldn't mind. I live in Canada, I wouldn't mind the house prices in the Greater Toronto Area sky rocketing with a massive tech influx. I mean it'd be the greatest property market hike in fifty-years.

Google will fold. They folded to the Chinese for years, and they will fold for SOPA.

Do you agree that "Having Google's DNS blacked out because Google linked to a copyrighted sitcom transcript" a possible outcome if SOPA passes?

For what it's worth, this is an unlikely outcome with Google (or Wikipedia) as it is now. It would have easily been possible with Google (or Wikipedia) as it was back in 2000.

That's the real danger: SOPA is unlikely to shut down Google or Wikipedia, but it could easily prevent the next Google or Wikipedia from getting off the ground.

And he was saying Z = 0. Calm down.

When you have a medical emergency, you call 911 or go to the emergency room, not peruse Q & A sites for answers.

Many people want to figure out if they have a medical emergency or not, before calling 911. Especially in a country like the USA, where a visit can mean thousands of dollars of expense or even going bankrupt.

There are plenty of cases where it's hard for the layperson to determine if something is serious or not.

While true, I'm sure that there are plenty of users who search for information about something they don't think is an emergency, and then find out it is.

> When you have a medical emergency, you call 911 or go to the emergency room, not peruse Q & A sites for answers.

Life threatening, yes, but many people have ordinary emergencies likes burns and big cuts and won't go to ER because they know they can't handle the bill and will attempt to suck it up and self treat; even if it's not wise to do so. Emergency rooms aren't free; they have to treat you, yes, but they're going to bill you as well.

And then you die on the floor of the ER during your 8 hour wait to see a doctor, when you could have just saved your own life by doing a simple Google search.

What about googling [emergency room near <zip code>]? I don't know where the closest hospital to where I live or work is, since I have (fortunately) never needed one.

Sometimes is better to do both.

For example: Intoxication by adulterated liquor can cause strong headache and (permanent) blindness; but if you search in Google you may find out that drinking pure Whisky right away can neutralize its effects.

This sounds suspicious - care to cite any references?

Well, wikipedia has references in this section:


Specifically, anything with a strong ethanol content will help, as the damage caused by drinking methanol results from the byproducts of you body processing the poison. The biological pathways that process methanol have a greater affinity for ethanol, so drinking whisky (or everclear or 151) or any other strong alcohol will keep you alive until your body has a chance to eject the methanol as a waste product.

It was just and hypothetical example, being honest: right now the only thing i could find is this link in Spanish:


The theory is this: The consumption of ethyl alcohol (whisky/vodka) can prevent the conversion of methanol to formaldehyde and formic acid plus it extracts the toxic substance and neutralizes its metabolic effects.

Really? cool! Honest question: do you have a reference for that? I can't find one Google but would like to know more.

Please do note that the GP said "adulterated spirits" — that is, rubbing alcohol and the like, which contain methanol. If you have normal alcohol poisoning (i.e. from ethanol drinks like beer, wine, vodka, etc.), drinking whiskey is a terrible idea.

Are you a doctor?

Well, no, but the fact that more ethanol isn't the cure for ethanol poisoning is not exactly MD-level subject matter.


See the 2nd paragraph after the warning banner. It might not look serious, but it is. This review is written by an MD.

I agree with you. Thousands of people use google to search for critical information and loss of that for a day would cause losses in the tune of millions of dollars (if not billions) for a number of companies. I dont think that can be justified in an effort to raise awareness. To me putting a black mark across their logo would be good enough with a link and video explaining why SOPA is bad and why could it stifle innovation.

Surely the best place to find medical information is via your GP / doctor, not Google?

Certainly, but there are plenty of situations when people will consult Google before figuring out that they are having a medical emergency. Someone could for example google for "vomit like ground coffee" and realize they are probably bleeding inside and need to rush to the ER.

Best along what dimension? Time? Common symptoms? You get to call up, wait for someone to become available, answer a ton of screening questions.

What if you don't have a regular doctor, because you haven't seen one in a while and just got your first real job? Well, you have to wait to establish a doctor/patient relationship before you get any advice.

Plus, have you ever actually tried to get a medical question answered without an appointment? They say to check with a doctor before taking tylenol, but realistically ... no.

In many cases, yes, an online diagnostic is going to be much faster and about as accurate as the doctor.

Try searching for [poison control] or [suicide]. Both of those bring up one boxes with phone numbers to call. Those probably help save a couple lives per day. Sure, you could call 911 and have them give you the poison control number, but now you've tied up 911 resources.

I'm sure that the 911 operator won't mind, especially if it is or could be a genuine emergency.

Speaking as a former 911 operator, I can say fairly certainly that a 911 operator won't object to you calling to try and access the poison control center. They'll probably just transfer you, OR (more likely, depending on the policies of the jurisdiction in question) go ahead and dispatch an EMS crew to your location.

I would think that the time saved not looking up those numbers yourself and just dialing 911 would make it worth always dialing 911.

What about people in the US without medical insurance? They have a problem but want to consult online first to see if they can justify the cost of a doctors visit.

I'm sure this happens.

Been exactly there, done exactly that.

> via your GP

You do realize tens and tens of millions of people don't have GP's right?

Google shutting down would probably cause a significant amount of awareness of the existence of Bing. This could be devastating to them. I would never expect a complete shutdown.

"Darnit, googles down. Should we try yahoo to look up pa's symptoms?"

"Nah he just has a pain in his shoulder and shortness of breath, he'll be fine, lets play some games on facebook"

I'm pretty sure there are other search engines that would still be available.

My mom still uses Bing to search for Google to get to the website...

I am sadly unable to tell whether you are serious.

http://xkcd.com/763/ relates.

Plenty of people don't know any other search engine but "the Google".

if people are looking at google for medical information during serious cases, we are in a very bad state.

I'd much rather use Google than the "medical" alternatives that were available a hundred years ago or are still widely used in developing countries. These can result in increased pain, suffering and deaths because of poor diagnosis or idiotic ineffectual traditional cures.

I'd pick Google over a witch doctor, religious medicine or herbal doctor every time!!

Religious nuts and herbal quacks get listed on Google too. As do anti-vax, homeopathy, and other non-scientific crap.

Indeed, and these things lead to unnecessary deaths. Very dangerous.

You know, this actually makes me wonder what the impact on the economy would be if Google went down for a day. I would imagine a lot of people would just use Bing for a day (which would probably be terrible for Google in and of itself), but I wonder how many peoples' jobs would be temporarily halted due to not having Google and not knowing of any other search engine to use.

For that matter, I wonder what the economic impact of Wikipedia shutting down will be. It's just one of those things that I haven't imagined a world without. On the bright side, I suppose that there might be a positive benefit to the economy if Reddit shuts down.

I think you overestimate number of people who use searchboxes int their browsers - how many times we saw stories about people typing 'facebook.com' into Google?

I think the majority of users, especially non-technical (and I think majority of people that should see this message fall in this category), still uses google.com as a place to begin their searches.

Last time I looked "Google" was one the most searched for items on Google due to people typing it into browser search fields to get Google so they can search for something on Google.

I've watched people do this.

I bet a lot of them do. I know people who still have Yahoo! as their homepage.

As for me, I have hardly visited the Google homepage since modern browsers introduced the search bar.

I would love to see two things from Google:

  * Change the logo; even just a black bar through the middle since the logo gets a lot of attention.

  * For any SOPA/PIPA supporter's site in their results, mark it in some way.  Don't block it, but indicate that this is a supporter and use that to demonstrate what SOPA/PIPA might do.  This allows people to ignore those sites if they want, but does not remove them from the index or cause any permanent harm.

They could also replace the search bar with a prompt, reminding the user that the quality and breadth of search results currently available to them will suffer if the legislation passes. Once they click "Ok" they can go on searching, but at least throw out a warning that things will change for everyone if SOPA/PIPA makes it through.

Or at least change the logo to all black...

'Most dramatic' ≠ 'most effective', at least not always.

For example, tantrums are dramatic, but can create more resentment than sympathy.

Google really should go dark, even if it is only for a few hours. Policymakers need to understand that if the internet gets broken, it will have repercussions well outside of silicon valley.

Google would likely face wrath from investors, as well as breaking agreements with partners. Their legal department would need therapy.

It will give greater legitimacy to other sites protesting, just from news reports including google on the list of companies taking part. I'm guessing the news stories will end of having much more influence than whatever google links to.

I would imagine the vast majority of users would notice something in their Google results before they notice a name in a news report. People search every day. Not everyone reads the news every day (sadly).

Google going dark would basically turn the Internet off, unlike Wikipedia, as Google is to normal people a proxy to the whole Internet.

They've got a big responsibility on their shoulders and as much as I hate SOPA, Google going dark would be completely irresponsible and I would think less of them.

Tenuous link (was mentioned in the article)

I find it more astonishing that Rupert Murdoch would have the gall to say on twitter: "So Obama has thrown in his lot with. Silicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery. -"

It's a mix of both gall and ignorance made really dangerous with a massive dose of power.

There are just so many things that don't make sense in this statement, not a single bit of it is unworthy of criticism. Any other time a Rupert-type or Republican would chastize Obama for not supporting the startup "innovators" that are also against this bill. I'm not sure what "paymaster" is meant to imply and "software creators" are by-and-large against SOPA/PIPA. Then of course the entire piracy = theft discussion. Sigh. I don't know about gall, I think it's purely ignorance, maybe just enabled by gall.

An easy way to show solidarity with SOPA protesters is whenever the main Google page is loaded (not when a query is already passed to Google) is to have it load black with some text saying how this is Internet might look like if SOPA is passed, followed by it fading into the normal google page, with maybe some text below the bar to contact legislators within the local area.

They should replace their logo with a big black rectangle. This would get everyone's attention (not just google.com visitors).

They don't need to commit commercial suicide by shutting off their site ('hey, bing isn't that bad..'), but this is pretty weak.

From the post:

In response to questions about how the protest link would be displayed on the page, all Google would say is that the link would not replace the company logo.

I really hope they do a SOPA doodle tomorrow.

I'm starting to get the feeling tomorrow is going to be crazy. I don't think congress is prepared for this. Their approval rating already abysmal, and I predict this will put a LOT of people into action.

Looks like those tech illiterate Senators brought a knife to gun fight.

Actually it is more like they are duelling with their ammo supplier and then are surprised when the don't have any bullets.

Anyone gone to Craigslist lately? They've put up a black wall with info about pipa/sopa visible for 20 seconds. Then a link to the regular site appears.

IMO, having some notice on the home page is not a great deal at all. I rarely every go to the Google home page. I just use the search bars on the browsers. The rare time is to see some doodle.

Google should go dark like Wikipedia. That will have the biggest impact, and of course, the impact will be much bigger than the Wikipedia black out.

do you think of yourself as an average computer user? almost everyone i know use google's homepage as their personal homepage.

Of course it will have an impact, just like a normal doodle

Wonder if Google and Wikipedia would consider going dark to show support for the right legislation to stop online thieves.

now it will be like who will do the blackout next. Facebook, twitter, yahoo, aol etc

So what will Bing do tomorrow?

I doubt anyone will check.

something more original: Google should put their background black and leave the text black,so people would have to highlight the text to be able to see. It would be like trying to find candles in a real blackout!

This makes me uncomfortable. The implications of a corporation - especially a corporation as big as Google - being actively involved in politics are scary. You may find yourselves cheering for them now, but what about the day Google is involved in something against your interests or political views? This move makes that a possibility.

The sad fact is that corporations are already deeply involved in this bill - where do you think it came from in the first place?

I'm sorry to be the one to break it to you, but corporations are the leading driving force behind almost all of USA's politics. I can count on one hand the number of Representatives and Senators combined that have NOT been bought and paid for by giant corporations. The same goes for non-trivial pieces of legislation passing through either the House or Senate with corporate sponsorship.

Just a minor correction:

It is pretty widely accepted hypothesis that politicians do not "corrupt" when they are elected to office but that corporations support politicians which favor their positions. Politicians that have money have legitimacy. Legitimate candidates get elected.

Couple that with the fact that corporations often donate to 50+ candidates (on both sides of the aisle) and not only do they have a pre-polling vote (through money) but they also get to play in many elections.

It's the house vs. the people and the house always wins.

If you can produce evidence that a corporation has donated to even one candidate, much less 50, the FEC would love to speak to you; it's illegal for corporations to donate to candidates.

There are many ways for a corporation to provide value to a candidate besides a cash donation. Some of these ways can translate readily into cash. For example, insider trading by congresspeople, which apparently is legal. http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7388130n http://www.cnbc.com/id/45249857

Ever heard of a PAC?

Not only have I heard of PACs, but I've given to my employer's PAC, which than donated money to the campaigns of 50+ candidates.

I don't know if you've participated in the system, but it's not fair to equate that with a corporation donating its own money to a political campaign.

I'm aware that corporations are involved in politics; you misunderstand me. I mean to say, I find the idea of Google advertising something political so explicitly on their front page a little bit discomforting. The same applies to Wikipedia's decision to go with the "nuclear option", a blackout. It feels like it opens all sorts of doors with nasty implications. But that's just me.

I hate to break it to you, but there is no Santa Claus, corporations are heavily involved in politics, and Google using their logo for political advocacy does not open up the gates to a new era of corporate political activism.

If anything, internet corporations are showing up late to the game.

I think the point is: Suppose google blackout for a day, since they have never done this before afaik it will give them insight into how crucial their service is (or isn't) to the population in general.

If they saw that modern society could not function without them then they could then effectively hold legislators over a barrel and say "pass law X or we turn it off", these laws might not always be things we would like.

Of course if they pulled that enough times I'm sure another engine would come along and replace them.

This is a problem I have with centralized software and data that is proprietary to one company, I imagine Google and Facebook could legally do some pretty nasty things if they wanted to.

Weak. Google should participate in the blackout.

Twitter seems to not care about SOPA, but Google claims to be actively working against SOPA - they should walk the walk if they are going to talk the talk. With this "message" on their homepage (which as jaysonelliot pointed out is not even seen by many people) they get the branding of being in support of an open web but don't have to actually take action the way Wikipedia, Boing Boing, etc are going to.

Just window dressing from the PR department. Disappointing but not at all surprising.

> With this "message" on their homepage (which as jaysonelliot pointed out is not even seen by many people)

How is 64% of their traffic (89 million visitors in 2009)[1] not "many people"?

[1]: http://blog.compete.com/2009/04/21/home-page-visitors-top-pu...

Wow I am surprised by that. I stand corrected, my apologies. That is what I get for taking anecdotal experience and extrapolating ;) I can't remember the last time I went to Google.com, but evidently heaps of people go there.

But I stand by my opinion that this is a weak response from Google.

Not only do lots of people still visit google.com, but the types of people who still visit it are precisely the types of people who need to learn about this law. I suspect those of us savvy enough to use a toolbar are disproportionately more likely to already know about and oppose the bill, while the kinds of people that go to google.com to search for 'facebook.com' are disproportionately more likely to know nothing about it yet.

The kinds of people that go to Google.com are also the kinds of people who don't fully understand the repercussions of a law like SOPA. Google not working would drive home the message to them. They could learn about SOPA from an informational page like the one Wikipedia is going to put up during the blackout.

No, the kinds of people that go to google.com are the kinds of people who would assume "the internet broke" if google.com looked dramatically different when they loaded it. They may even need someone to point out to them that Google is actively taking a stance on it, despite having seen the page.

You'd be surprised how many people type "google" in to the google search bar on their computer, then click the first search result so that they can go to google.com and then enter their search terms.

It seems ridiculous to us, but I've seen many non-techy people do it.

It would be massively bad if google were to shutdown -- most people like my mom simply types "yahoo" in her chrome browser, which does a google search for yahoo, then she clicks the first result to go there -- same goes for most people using android phones, typing out ".com" is just extra work people don't do. If search were down for a day, people would just assume their internet is broken, even if they knew about the alternatives.

Another good reason for them not to do it (from their POV) would be this:

If they shutdown for a day everybody suddenly thinks "Wow, Google can actually go down.. what if this happened again? what if it was for longer next time? Is it really a good idea to give these guys a monopoly on search and put all our eggs in one basket?"

Thank you for finding this.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact