Take a stand for your freedom of expression
Candace Kwan, St Paul's Convent School
'Students weren't able to do their homework due to the Wikipedia blackout - damn the Stop Online Piracy Act [Sopa]'.
All jokes aside, Sopa is serious business - it has actually been talked about since late October last year, but didn't really seem to catch on among students until this month, when petitions were shared on social networking websites.
Google, Reddit and Icanhascheezburger, some of the internet's biggest players, all took steps to oppose Sopa (as well as Pipa, the Protect Intellectual Property Act, similar legislation proposed by the US Senate) by causing a blackout on January 18.
Users were inconvenienced but were also educated, as the above sites provided them with means to take action against Sopa and Pipa. You can be sure it got Washington's attention, as well as the whole world's - and that's hardly a surprise as it was the biggest online protest ... ever.
What originally was a bill proposed by the US House of Representatives has turned into a train wreck - there's no doubt that the intention of the legislation was to protect intellectual property rights (for example, music and films) by stopping copyright infringement by both domestic and foreign websites, but the ambiguity of the bill could harm our access to information. Also, freedom of expression would be curbed as the censorship of the internet would revolve around the entertainment industry.
Sure, these bills were proposed with good intentions. But the censorship could quickly get out of hand as the ambiguity would make it easy for sites to be shut down by court order if they provided links to infringed material - this clause makes search engines, directories, forums and blogs all vulnerable.
All we can do now is get educated, make our voices heard by signing Google's petition and sending messages to Congress, or risk saying a tearful goodbye to the freedom of expression we enjoy on our beloved social networking sites.