Lauren Goode

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App Makers Craft Code for Protesting SOPA

Today, an estimated 7,000 Web sites are instituting blackouts to protest anti-piracy bills, known as SOPA in Congress and PIPA in the Senate.

Many Internet companies and boldfaced names in tech have in recent weeks been vociferously opposing the passage of the bills, saying the provisions that would thwart piracy would also create an environment of censorship and unfairly target certain sites as being compliant in piracy. Supporters of the bills, meanwhile, say that the laws are necessary to clamp down on sites that circulate copyrighted content outside the U.S.

For those protesting the bills, some Web sites and developers have created options to help other Web users who want to black out all or portions of their sites. is offering “blackout code” for Web users to copy and paste into the theme section of Web sites to protest SOPA/PIPA. The site says the code will only be available today.

The site encourages visitors to join the strike, sign up online and send letters to Congress. It also has a full list of confirmed participants in the strike.

CloudFlare is offering a “Stop Censorship” app that blacks out intermittent words on your site (you have to have a CloudFlare account to access the app). Visitors to your site will see the black bars only the first time they visit; after that, they’ll see a black “censored” label in the upper left corner of the site. CloudFlare also says it won’t block links, and is taking an SEO-friendly approach to blacking out words.

For users who don’t have a CloudFlare account, there’s a plugin available on GitHub, created by CloudFlare coder Mike Sofaer.

Some Webmasters might be concerned about the short-term impact of blacking out their sites, even if it is in solidarity with the national protest. WebMonkey points to a Google+ post from Google’s Pierre Far on how to black out sites the “right” way. He also notes, interestingly, that Google’s crawl team has configured Googlebot to crawl at a much lower rate for today only, so that the Google search results of Web sites involved in the strike are less likely to be affected today.

Around midnight last night, Google put up a blackout banner in front of its homepage logo; Wikipedia, BoingBoing and other sites also went dark. As AllThingsD’s Arik Hesseldahl writes, sites like Google could find themselves in legal hot water under SOPA and PIPA just for linking to pirated content in search results.

Still confused about what the SOPA protests are all about? AllThingsD has been covering the story, so here’s the latest, along with a growing list of participating Web sites. And the Guardian has a video explainer here.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald