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A Day of Internet Censorship Protests, Online and Off

January 19, 2012

BISMARCK, N.D. - North Dakotans and others online across the country couldn't help but notice a number of high profile websites protesting Wednesday over federal legislation aimed at cracking down on piracy. They say it could lead to censorship.

Amalia Deloney of the Center for Media Justice says Wednesday's blackouts of websites, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts had much of the country talking about the issue of Internet freedom.

"It's very clear that people not only care very deeply about this issue but that the average person in the United States has a very, very good idea of what kind of Internet experience they want."

Chaka Mkali, a Minneapolis artist and activist, opposes Internet censorship. He says communities of color have enough trouble closing the "digital divide" between those who can easily access the Internet and those hampered by underprivileged status.

"Historically marginalized communities and people of color, we shouldn't have to face additional obstacles in our struggle to close that divide."

Professor Lateef Mtima founded and directs the Institute for Intellectual Property and Social Justice at the Howard University School of Law. He says people mobilized and brought about changes in the proposed legislation.

"Now, average people understand that, hey, you know what, this stuff may seem sophisticated and unconnected to me at first, but when I have proper information, I now see what's really going on. I now see how it concretely affects my interests."

Backers of the bills - including Hollywood studios, the recording industry and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce - say something has to be done about the online theft of movies and music, which by one estimate costs U.S. companies $135 billion a year. The tech industry - including Google, Yahoo and Twitter - says there has to be a better way, one that doesn't risk snuffing out Internet freedom.

More information is available at http://sopastrike.com/strike.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND