I've built my life on a free and open internet. As the co-founder of WordPress.org, a free software project that aims to democratise publishing, and the founder of Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com that hosts blogs from around the world in pursuit of the same goal, the proposed US legislation to regulate and censor the free and open foundation of the internet makes my mouth go dry with fear.

The rise of the web over the past two decades and the freedom to publish and express yourself online will be looked back upon as a cultural revolution.

We have gone from a world split between gatekeepers and media "consumers" to a world in which anyone regardless of geography, finances, social class, race, gender, or any other demographic identifier is free to engage with the rest of the world on their own terms.

That freedom is of paramount importance and must be protected.

That's why we're blacking out our websites on the 18th to raise awareness of this issue, and giving our users tools to do the same.

The tech world is fiercely competitive and companies seldom agree on anything, when you see so many united in solidarity on a single issue, you know there's something to it.

What concerns me the most about Sopa and the Protect IP Act is not that media companies and legislators want to have measures in place to protect copyright – for example we reply to and comply with DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown notices on WordPress.com when we receive them, it works well for everybody – it's that the authors of the legislation don't seem to really understand how the internet works.

The definition of domestic versus foreign sites shows a woeful lack of comprehension about how domains are used and how traffic flows on the internet.

Where do I stand? On the side of publishing freedom.

What do I hope for? That these pieces of legislation be set aside, and that any future legislation in this arena be drafted by people who understand how the internet works – and how it won't if they do the wrong thing.

My part of the set of op-eds on the BBC concerning today’s blackout. Check it out to also see Jimmy Wales, the MPAA, and the Chamber of Commerce. Hat tip to Jane for helping out with the above.

12 thoughts on “BBC Viewpoint on Blackout

  1. I already read it on BBC.

    Thanks for taking part in the protest and enabling us at WordPress.com to show the ribbon as well as blackout our blog.

  2. I think it’s ridiculous. These politicians have way too much time on their hands. Or, it could be the fact that they have to tread very lightly now. 20 years ago politicians got away with all sorts of crap they would not dream of doing now.

  3. Sopa et all are not the only threat to internet. Tim Lee have lamented that internet is now getting limited to a few biggies like fb, G etc. But once open source scripts like wp,phpbb, drupal was = internet. If “federation” was adopted, that is, I could friend and talk to any one on any wordpress/drupal/similar server we could have got back the inter-net. Will wordpress show the way?

  4. No, they really don’t understand how the internet works – nor do they understand how dependent they are on its freedom. I’m not an expert netizen and the destruction of working copyright will hurt me directly – but… The Internet still needs to be free and this is just an attempt by the struggling old-media to kill the growing new-media. Good for you for fighting back.

  5. I’m scared when seeing that any lobby or influential enough group can randomly shut down a website at international scale. And these laws demonstrate a great deal of misunderstanding about Internet’s core values.