Instead of blacking out for the Jan. 18 SOPA protest, Google (NSDQ: GOOG) instead is using its power — and its most iconic communications tools — to make a difference without denying access to its services.
As Craiglist went dark and Wikipedia prepared to frustrate countless kids with English-language homework assignments by doing the same, U.S.-facing Google.com turned into a SOPA soapbox complete with blacked-out Google logo — a variation on the cute or intricate Google doodles we enjoy so much — and a message urging its millions of U.S. users to sign an anti-SOPA petition to Congress
SOPA is the acronym for the Stop Online Piracy Act in the U.S. House; PIPA, the Protect IP Act, is the U.S. Senate version. Both are viewed by some in Congress and by numerous media and entertainment companies as ways to end the economic damage from piracy. Opponents contend that requiring a blockade of some foreign sites is the end of the web as we know it; the Electronic Frontier Foundation explains.
Click on “I’m feeling lucky” and you go to the usual gallery of doodles, including Monday’s MLK message. But click on the blacked-out logo (one bit is peeking through), and you get a poster promoting the petition. Same goes for the message — “Tell Congress: Please don’t censor the web!” — in the space below that is most often used lately to promote Google’s own products. (I’m also getting error messages right now.)
Some will see this as a half-measure — and some a grandstand play, but Google is more likely to earn points for using its bully pulpit. When I tweeted yesterday that Twitter served a protest like the Wednesday internet boycott best by serving as an amplifier, I quickly received a tweet of a Martin Luther King, Jr. quote from @vruz: “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”
In contrast, HuffingtonPost.com‘s big black box in the lead position on the front page looks at first like part of the protest but it’s being used to illustrate coverage of the protest.
Some other sites are going all the way: