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Fight against SOPA calls in star power

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As the debate over the markup of the Stop Online Piracy Act continues on Capital Hill, more technology heavyweights are calling for average netizens to register their discontent with the bil. Companies such as Reddit and Wikipedia are redoubling their efforts in opposing the measure, which aims to target online pirates in part by redirecting Web traffic from sites that host pirated content.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Reddit have been pushing a campaign arguing that SOPA, as written, would harm future innovation.

“Big corporations are lobbying Congress to pass a bill that would prevent sites such as Reddit, YouTube, Google or Bit.ly from ever getting off the ground,” the group’s campaign asserts, before issuing a call to have participants calling on their members of Congress to oppose the bill.

Underpinning the argument about the bill’s possible effects on innovation are two open letters to Congress, one sent by the founders of several prominent Web firms, including Google, Twitter, Wikipedia, and the other by engineers who were instrumental in creating the structure of the Internet, The Washington Post reported.

Supporters of the bill say that the measure would not damage the Internet or free speech, though Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) has introduced an amendment to the original bill to address some of these concerns.

In a more drastic measure, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has been discussing the possibility of staging a stunt to pull Wikipedia off the Internet in protest. On a discussion page at Wikipedia, approximately 90 percent of those who’ve weighed in support the temporary blacklist — a tactic the online encyclopedia used to combat an Italian privacy law.

“A few months ago, the Italian Wikipedia community made a decision to blank all of Italian Wikipedia for a short period in order to protest a law which would infringe on their editorial independence. The Italian Parliament backed down immediately,” Wales wrote.

Dissenters among Wikipedia’s ranks say that such a move wouldn’t have an effect on the political process. Others have said that Wikipedia should not become a political platform, pointing to Wikipedia’s own rules that it is not be used for advocacy.

“While I root for the opponents to SOPA, I don't think Wikipedia (the international Web site) should get their hands on local politics,” wrote one commenter on the site. “A banner would be an acceptable middle ground, something stronger (a complete block) would penalize people all around the world for something they can't do anything about.”

Web companies have taken their fight against SOPA viral, promoting their views on the legislation through homepage banners, calling campaigns and aggressive social media pushes for popular support.

Related stories:

Top Internet engineers warn against SOPA

Google’s Brin calls SOPA censorship akin to China, Iran

The nightmarish SOPA hearings

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