Web Giants Protest SOPA and PIPA

What is an Internet Strike?

http://esl-library.comSome of the biggest names on the web, including Google, Wikipedia, and Mashable are participating in an online protest on January 18th, 2012. The blackouts, warnings, and petitions are meant to draw attention to two proposed US bills aiming to curb online piracy. The Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) will be voted on this month. Proponents, including media companies and publishers, say the anti-piracy bills will help prevent foreign websites from earning money selling copyrighted works.
Many high profile critics of the bills are from the tech industry. These people feel the bills could completely change the infrastructure of the Internet and force sites to censor information. Wikipedia founders believe SOPA is a threat to free speech. The site’s decision to stage a 24 hour blackout is expected to bring global awareness to the proposed bills. The White House released a statement suggesting that it was opposed to any legislation that could reduce freedom of expression and damage the usefulness of the Internet.

Will you be covering this topic in class this week? Do you enjoy using authentic materials with your higher level learners? The Guardian published a fun video that helps explain the two sides of the anti-piracy legislation issue. The LA Times article: Internet strike: Wikipedia, Mozilla, Reddit to go dark tonight may help your learners understand what some of the web giants are doing in the historic online protest.

Here a few questions to get your students talking after you introduce the issue or read the article together:

  • What is a strike?
  • How does an Internet strike differ from a live strike?
  • Is Google powerful enough to prevent legislation from being passed?
  • Is Internet piracy a problem in your country?
  • Do you buy music, books, or movies from a site that steals and resells copyrighted works?
  • Whose responsibility is it to prevent piracy, the government’s, the buyer’s, or the creator’s?
  • Do you think websites participating in these protests will help prevent the bills from being passed?
  • Do you think these types of Internet protests will one day be more popular than live protests in city centres?
  • If you had or have a website, would you consider blacking it out as a form of protest?
  • Which form of protest do you think is more powerful, a temporary blackout (Wikipedia) or a request to sign a petition (Google)? What other ideas can you think of?

“Going dark is a dramatic but not entirely unrealistic warning of what the Internet could look like in a SOPA world.”
Zachary Sniderman

Ask your students: Do you agree or disagree with this quote? Which websites could you not live without?

Related lessons in the ESL-Library

Discussion Starters: Music Piracy
Mini Debates: File Sharing
Discussion Starters: Censorship (NEW)
Discussion Starters: Digital Learning
Discussion Starters: Occupy Wall Street

While our Something to Talk About suggestions are useful for getting your students involved in a group or pair discussion or debate, the topics, articles, and videos can also be used if you are looking for something for your students to blog/Skype/or write an opinion essay about.


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