|May 26, 2012
The “blackout” of Web sites to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in January was an unprecedented show of Internet solidarity against bad legislation. But with new net-threatening measures like ACTA and CISPA popping out of Congress on a practically monthly basis, one online entrepreneur and a group of net activists want to enable regular SOPA-style mass protests at the push of a button.
Alexis Ohanian, the 29-year old founder of social news site Reddit, has partnered with the online advocacy group Fight for the Future to create what they’re calling the “Internet Defense League.” Ohanian describes the project, which they plan to officially launch next month, as a “Bat-Signal for the Internet.” Any website owner can sign up on the group’s website to add a bit of code to his or her site–or receive that code by email at the time of a certain campaign–that can be triggered in the case of a political crisis like SOPA, adding an activist call-to-action to all the sites involved, such as a widget or banner asking users to sign petitions, call lawmakers, or boycott companies.The embedded code on participating sites might do more than just display a mere banner ad, says Tiffiny Cheng, co-director of Internet-focused political advocacy group Fight for the Future, and could even go as far as the blackout technique that Web activists used to successfully turn the tide against SOPA. “We’ll invent something at the time, and it will be some really unified and shocking action,” she says, hinting at techniques that would temporarily take over the entire appearance of willing sites. ”We’re creating the tools and the forms of protest that allow for viral organizing. That’s how the SOPA protests were able to get started and grow to the level they did.”