A tactic used by the Russian government when officials are annoyed by some online publications, human rights organizations, or political opponents is to have the police raid their headquarters to find their computers running versions of Windows for which they do not have a license. Based on this illegal use of software, the police shut them down.
The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) would arguably give a similar power to the U.S. government to censor the internet based on findings that internet service providers are providing unlicensed access to copyrighted material. SOPA has provoked strong pushback from ISPs and users. Now it is rumored that internet titans, Amazon, Google, Twitter, and Facebook are considering a "nuclear blackout" as a way to warn Americans of the danger to internet liberty posed by SOPA. As Charlie Osborne reports at the iGeneration blog:
Wikipedia was the first to consider a blackout of their services, in order to demonstrate what SOPA could potentially do to any website that allowed user-generated content. Now, a number of sites including Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon are considering coordinated downtime on their platforms.
Markham Erickson of NetCoalition recently confirmed that the extreme move was "under consideration" by the Internet companies. The director commented:
"This type of thing doesn't happen because companies typically don't want to put their users in that position. The difference is that these bills so fundamentally change the way the Internet works. People need to understand the effect this special-interest legislation will have on those who use the Internet."
The "nuclear option" will cause major Internet service providers to go simultaneously in to the dark in a coordinated effort to show their displeasure at the proposed legislation.
Frankly, I wish more companies and industries would refuse to offer their services as a way to alert their customers to other government efforts to interfere with peaceful commerce. Given sufficient warning to customers, an internet blackout day could generate a magnificent firestorm of public protest against Congress' misconceived effort to rein in internet freedom.