It would have happened slowly at first. A broken hyperlink here and there. A few Google searches with links leading to nowhere. In the beginning, global users of the web would have barely noticed pieces of the Internet going dark.
Then there may have been a few investigative journalists piecing things together, and then more coverage as mainstream media picked it up. Adversaries of the open web would have grown bolder, attacking larger and larger websites. Services and companies that we enjoyed would have been shut down or drastically changed. Some sites would never have existed at all, but Internet users would never really know what they were missing.
The increasingly rigid control of the Internet would have turned surfing the web into an experience more like surfing television stations—moving from one controlled, expensive online platform to the next—than the strange maze of eccentric, eclectic information flows that we have today.
In a few generations, the wildness of the web would have been extinguished.
Instead, we fought back.
On January 18, 2012, advocacy groups like EFF, Fight for the Future, and Demand Progress, millions of everyday Internet users across the globe, Internet engineers, law professors and tech companies big and small worked together to orchestrate a digital protest so powerful, it changed the game in DC and around the world. Congress was flooded with emails, calls, and letters while huge websites like Google and Wikipedia blacked out in solidarity. The Internet showed Washington that it could and would defend itself.
But defeating SOPA didn’t happen in a single day—it was a multi-year effort. Many people remember the blackout and forget the countless hours spent raising early alarms about coming censorship efforts. That work—in the form of public advocacy, research, articles, and coalition calls—was indispensable to creating the movement that would defeat SOPA.
Today, we’re raising those alarms again.
While no one knows the details of what the coming four years will bring, we have enough information to be afraid for the future of digital rights. With President Trump taking office, we expect new efforts to undermine encryption, ratchet up surveillance, dismantle protections for net neutrality, and attack freedom of the press. Now more than ever, we need an engaged, coordinated, powerful force of Internet defenders.
That’s why EFF is joining dozens of organizations in commemorating the SOPA anniversary today. We’re committing to safeguarding Internet freedom against all foes, and we know that core values like creativity, access to knowledge, and privacy are at stake.
A coalition of digital rights groups—including EFF—and Internet companies published a piece today about the SOPA blackout and the future of our fight:
Looking back from five years in the future, the defeat of SOPA/PIPA by an unlikely coalition of Internet activists, online communities, and huge business interests is even more amazing. The call to action didn’t fall along party lines. It brought together libertarians, progressives, conservatives, and Tea Party activists. It didn’t matter if you were a major corporation or an individual citizen. For one day, the line was drawn, and the fight for a Free Internet changed everything…
If the 2012 victory against SOPA/PIPA taught us anything, it’s that whether or not the Internet will remain a place that everyone can access reliably and affordably to share, connect, and create freely depends on us.