The Largest Online Protest In History Started Here

SOPA SF protest

[credit provider=”Boonsri Dickinson, Business Insider”]

Yesterday, you couldn’t access Wikipedia and thousands of other sites because the sites were protesting two bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect-IP Act (PIPA). Like the Occupy Movement, this movement started from somewhere. The group behind the largest online protest in history is Fight for the Future, which began in October.

Tiffiniy Cheng, a co-founder of Fight for the Future said, “we began with a first day of action on November 16, 2011. We’ve been working with groups since then to take action before the last vote in the Senate on their version of the bills.” The vote on PIPA is going to happen next week on January 24.

Cheng and her team are in their thirties. Some of them went to high school together. They are open source advocates, DJs, writers, and video producers. When the team of five made a video to show what SOPA and PIPA would do, it got 2 million views. Cheng was happy it went viral.

“We have built tools and a ground work for organising protests and opposition to SOPA and PIPA,” Cheng said, pointing me to the timeline of events.

It began on November 16, when Cheng and her team helped organise American Censorship Day. More than 5,000 sites, including Reddit, participated in having their front page taken over. The non-profit got over a million emails that day. And 80,000 calls were made to government officials.

“We saw that SOPA and PIPA was moving ahead. We were seen as the minority. Since November 16, the topic of SOPA and PIPA has been growing steadily. This stuff has been spread. Internet users have been building and building to this very moment,” Cheng said of the online protest.

Cheng said it’s something they’ve been discussing for a while, after Wikipedia started the conversation around a possible strike in December. After Reddit announced that they’d do it, momentum has been steady ever since, Cheng said. 

Like many others in tech, Cheng feels that the bill would be giving corporations too much power because they already have a way of taking down infringing links.

The online protests are a way of fighting to protect our right to free speech. “Sharing and talking about content and art are valuable to our everyday lives,” she said.

And if you’ve tried to access Wikipedia during the blackout, you’ll get a sense of what censorship feels like.

Complete and utter darkness.