SOPA 2012: A Year of Censorship in Review

In the hashtag category of Zeitgesit 2012, Google’s top searches of the year, SOPA or the Stop Online Piracy Act topped the bill.  You might have been surprised by this as I’m sure some of you were thinking that a hashtag about Justin Bieber must have made it to the top but fortunately for the rest of the world, it didn’t even make it to the top 10.

But seriously, how did SOPA become the number one search for hashtags?  Well, for one, probably because it is a global issue, second, a lot of people are against it and third, Anonymous–the hacktivist collective openly campaigned against it.

So let’s take a quick look at SOPA news in 2012:

In January, there was an Internet blackout campaign wherein some services and websites became unavailable as a form of protest against SOPA.  Reddit, WordPress.com, and Wikipedia were unavailable for some time to users while other sites who cannot shut down operations published anti-SOPA statements or used blackened images with the word “censored” smack in the middle to inform Internet users as to what will happen if SOPA gets passed.

CloudFare, a cloud-based service designed to speed up websites, released a SOPA protest app before the blackout which showed people how the Internet would look like if SOPA gets passed–there will be a lot of censored images and even words–it’s like looking at a CIA or FBI file that had a lot of information redacted.

A day after the blackout, SOPA and its counterpart PIPA (Protection of Intellectual Property Act) were put on hold meaning, the acts weren’t passed, yet.  It was still up for review but everyone against SOPA were quite hopeful that they will be trashed.  Then a day after the blackout, Megaupload was shut down which quickly pissed off Anonymous since it didn’t matter that SOPA and PIPA were put on hold as the FBI still did what they wanted to do, so they launched a massive DDoS attack.

At the end of February, Ireland signed a bill that put a SOPA-like law into play in their country.  Ireland’s Minister for Research and Innovation, Sean Sherlock, signed the bill in response to EMI Ireland’s demands that the country put into play a bill that would implement stricter copyright laws.  Of course, this was met by much protest and an online petition to abolish the bill was even launched.  Last week, EMI, Sony Music Entertainment Ireland, Universal Music Ireland and Warner Music Ireland filed a case against a number of Ireland’s ISPs: UPC Communications Ireland, Vodafone Ireland, Imagine Telecommunications, Digiweb and Hutchinson 3 G because they failed to implement the three-strike policy and blocking The Pirate Bay.  The music labels and ISPs will meet in court on December 17 and if worse comes to worse, the Irish may soon say goodbye to a lot of their beloved websites.

In September, the big names of the tech industry officially set up a lobby group, The Internet Association, to fight for a ‘free and innovative’ internet by stopping the likes of SOPA from getting passed.  Google has already spent over $9 million in lobbying in Congress while Facebook has spent over $1.6 million and they’re not afraid to spend more just to get the government off of the internet’s back.

The Russian government did a sneak attack as they’ve dressed up another SOPA-like bill in order to censor the web without people noticing it.  One of the controversial powers of the bill is that it can create a secret Internet blacklist so users won’t have a clue which sites are being blocked.  So they can visit a page, and just assume that it’s down for maintenance or something.  To read more about the Russian SOPA, click here.

Those are just some of the news that brought SOPA to the top spot of Zeitgeist 2012 and though SOPA wasn’t passed, it doesn’t mean politicians will just suddenly stop in trying to curtail internet freedom.  They’ll just keep on disguising it until something gets passed.

About Mellisa Tolentino

Mellisa is a staff writer for SiliconAngle, covering social and mobile news. She is fascinated by technology and loves imparting what she learns through her journey as a writer. Got a news story or tip? Send it to mellisa@siliconangle.com