While not going dark, Google Wednesday joined a World Wide Web protest by blocking its name on its homepage to highlight its concerns with two congressional bills aimed at curbing piracy and counterfeiting on foreign websites.
Google is among several leading tech companies opposed to the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, in the House and the Senate's Protect IP Act, which would allow a court to order online advertisers and payment processors to stop doing business with foreign websites primarily focused on infringement. The measures also would authorize a court to require search engines like Google and Microsoft's Bing to stop returning search results for such sites and require service providers to block U.S. access to foreign infringing websites. The bills' authors, however, have pledged in recent days to remove the website blocking provisions.
Despite this, opponents such as Google, Wikipedia and other websites argue that the legislation will stifle free speech and innovation on the Internet. Thousands of websites including Wikipedia and the social news site Reddit have gone black Wednesday to protest SOPA and Protect IP.
In a blog post early Wednesday, Google Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer David Drummond said while fighting piracy is important, lawmakers should focus on cutting off funding to infringing foreign websites. Google urged users with a note on its homepage to sign an online petition against the legislation.
"Because we think there's a good way forward that doesn't cause collateral damage to the web, we're joining Wikipedia, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, Mozilla and other Internet companies in speaking out against SOPA and [Protect IP]," Drummond wrote.
House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., is expected Wednesday to introduce legislation, which has been endorsed by Google and other tech firms, that would focus on the follow-the-money approach and give the International Trade Commission authority to enforce the bill instead of the Justice Department. Issa said Tuesday during a Capitol Hill briefing that he expects his measure will have more co-sponsors than SOPA. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the leading opponent of both bills in his chamber, introduced similar legislation last month.
House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, has been critical of Google in particular, saying the Internet firm is benefiting financially from infringing websites. Google has vehemently denied such claims, noting in its blog post Wednesday that the it has been "investing a lot of time and money in that fight" against piracy.
Meanwhile, two groups opposed to the legislation have launched a new website, VoteForTheNet.com, urging political support for lawmakers who oppose the legislation.
The site is calling for support in particular for four senators: Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Wyden, who has been blocking Protect IP from moving to the Senate floor since it was approved by the Judiciary Committee in May. The Senate is set to vote Tuesday on whether to allow debate to begin on Protect IP.
The bipartisan site is being run by David Segal of Demand Progress, a former Democratic state representative from Rhode Island, and Patrick Ruffini of Don't Censor the Net, who was webmaster for former President George W. Bush's 2004 re-election campaign.