By now you've spent half a day without some of your go-to websites. Wikipedia, Reddit and thousands of others are blacked out because of an unusual form of protest by technology companies: They've shut down or replaced the content on their websites with messages to show their opposition to two Internet-regulation bills currently in Congress.
The Washington Post explains:
This fight is over two similar bills: the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act and the Senate’s Protect IP (intellectual property) Act. Both are meant to attack the problem of foreign Web sites that sell pirated or counterfeit goods. They would impose restrictions forcing U.S. companies to stop selling online ads to suspected pirates, processing payments for illegal online sales and refusing to list Web sites suspected of piracy in search-engine results.
The idea is to cut off the channels that deliver American customers, and their money, to potential pirates. But tech companies see the laws as a dangerous overreach, objecting because, they say, the laws would add burdensome costs and new rules that would destroy the freewheeling soul of the Internet.
So far the protests have had some measurable effect: The Los Angeles Times reports that three co-sponsors of the SOPA and PIPA antipiracy bills have publicly withdrawn their support for the legislation. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) withdrew as a co-sponsor of the Protect IP Act in the Senate, while Reps. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) and Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.) said they were pulling their names from the companion House bill, the Stop Online Piracy Act.