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I saw the following message appear on SO a few minutes ago:

SOPA is a dangerous law. It breaks the Internet and threatens sites like Stack Overflow. Protect the Internet!

Unfortunately, I can't fill in the form at americancensorship.org with a European phone number. How can non-Americans help in this matter?

Screenshot:

System message

2013-06-27 update: they still collect signs at americancensorship.org and they finally allowed an option for foreigners! They suggest the campaign continues because sooner or later the issue will be brought up again.

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All we can do is noise. In general, why would people in country X have direct influence on laws in country Y? –  badp Nov 29 '11 at 16:10
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I was going to ask a variant on this question. Since SO knows I am not in the US and don't have a Senator I can write to, why does it show me the banner? (And I might have mumbled something about Dennis Ritchie while I was at it.) –  Kate Gregory Nov 29 '11 at 16:13
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@KateGregory: as I said to paul below, what if you don't want Stack Overflow to be shut down, but you have American friends/relatives? Maybe you tell them to tell their senators to vote against SOPA. –  Pops Nov 29 '11 at 16:24
    
@Kevin, I'm quasi-rolling-back your edit because it makes the question preview look like this: "I saw the following message appear on SO a few minutes ago: Unfortunately, I can't fill in the form at ..." –  Pops Nov 29 '11 at 16:35
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@KateGregory - Because there's no mechanism to do that in the current tools, which do nothing more than allow you to enter a message with some HTML (not even Markdown!), and specify a duration or expiration time and date. I will admit that the author of the message probably didn't want to filter it out for non-Americans anyways, but it's not an option in the tools even if the author did want to filter it. –  Kevin Vermeer Nov 29 '11 at 16:43
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@KevinVermeer a banner that was worded differently might not have raised my hackles, say "if you are in the US, please link of some kind and if not, please spread the word" (maybe with a link to tweet it or whatnot.) As it stands it says to me "everyone (or at least everyone who matters) is in the US because it's the only country in the world." And I thought SO was better than that. –  Kate Gregory Nov 29 '11 at 16:56
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@KateGregory I think, in this case, it's more like "everyone who matters is in the US because that's the country that is considering the law that will hurt SO... so spread the word among people you know in the US, or people who know people in the US, or people who know people who know..." I would imagine that a similar message would be run for any proposed German or Indian or Venezuelan law that legitimately threatened the network. –  Pops Nov 29 '11 at 17:02
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I bet you a doughnut that a similar message would not be run for any proposed German or Indian or Venezuelan law that legitimately threatened the network. I would amazed if the SO administrators even knew of its existence. This is, i am afraid to say, American chauvinism plain and simple. We non-Americans are fairly inured to this, but it would be nice if it could be avoided. –  Tom Anderson Nov 29 '11 at 17:43
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Don't think that the bill in the US won't affect you in some other country, the internet is international. Once the US imposes such a rule it will be much easier for other countries to do so, instead of trying to hide the similarities to such systems, used by Iran, Syria, etc, they can say "it's a good thing, the US has it". Also the US holds a large portion (if not the largest, one of the largest) of internet traffic, if the US population is denied access to a site it will severely affect the site's popularity, making the site much less commercially viable and basically killing it. –  Jonathan. Nov 29 '11 at 17:58
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This bill is so wide, it would allow the outright blocking of sites like Youtube, if just one video has music, or a clip in it, and there are already millions. Most of the big name sites are hosted in the US, not Germany etc, thats why such a big fuss is being made here. Seriously, watch the video about the bill on the site the banner link to, it explains it an easy to understand way, and you'll understand why if this bill is passed the internet will become much much worse, and much less usable. (I'm in the UK btw) –  Jonathan. Nov 29 '11 at 18:02
    
@Jonathan: This bill requires the DOJ or a court to be involved. Basically, all congress is doing is giving them another weapon with which to stop sites dedicated to piracy. And I support that. Even a cursory reading shows that it doesn't "break the internet" nor would it have any impact on the functioning of the stack exchange sites. It's just fear mongering as usual. –  Chris Lively Nov 29 '11 at 20:05
    
@Chris, again and again they create laws to "combat" piracy, and the entertainment industry does nothing to change their attitudes to when they release their material nor how they distribute it. If companies, like StackExchange, Google, and even Apple (admittedly through association) are against the bill, then there's something wrong with it. Eg, If the bill passes it will force Google to police their index, or else they'll be sued many times, that's great in theory, but why does Google have to do this (v. costly) and they won't always get it right. The bill may have good intentions... –  Jonathan. Nov 29 '11 at 20:31
    
@Jonathan: I think StackExchange and a host of others haven't really read or even understand the law. Regarding large companies like Google and Apple: well, quite frankly they fight just about EVERYTHING tech related that they themselves didn't author. So I don't put any stock in other of those positions. –  Chris Lively Nov 29 '11 at 23:43
    
@ChrisLively, if anything Apple should be completely for this, as destroying piracy would increase their profits in iTunes. Sorry that people/I don't take your view over the legal teams of billion dollar companies. –  Jonathan. Nov 30 '11 at 0:14
    
@Jonathan: this act targets foreign sites. Apple is building a cloud; google already has several data centers out of the US. The act could impact google and could certainly impact Apple's decision on where to build their next one. Hence the reason they don't like it. I hope that clarifies why billion dollar companies might be against this: because of those very same dollars. –  Chris Lively Nov 30 '11 at 0:24

4 Answers 4

up vote 66 down vote accepted

The EU did Adopt a Resolution Against the Stop Online Piracy Act. Although if you are not in the US you can't use an actual vote (or lack there of) to motivate specific politicians, you can spread the word.

SO and many sites are hosted in the U.S. and DNS is a global system (See these whitepapers on SOPA and DNS impact), so this law will impact the Internet as a whole. The more noise whole Internet makes the more attention SOPA's negative consequences might get.

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Easiest solution: move site to somewhere else? - That's a lot more easy than changing the global opinion (which currently is anti privacy, pro piracy rules). –  paul23 Nov 29 '11 at 16:12
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@paul23 that's treating the symptom and not the cause. What if they move it elsewhere and the same thing happens there? Just keep hopping around? Plus, I disagree that it's the global opinion; rather it's the opinion of people with influence affecting policy in a poor manner (glaring oversights in the bill that are troublesome if left unchecked). –  Ahmad Mageed Nov 29 '11 at 16:19
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@AhmadMageed the US is a democracy right? - If the global opinion is that this law is bad, by the time the next goverment is to be voted for there's a new party/guy/group of people who have an easy win by simply stating against this law. At least that's how a democracy works. –  paul23 Nov 29 '11 at 16:20
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@paul23 actually it's a republic. –  AakashM Nov 29 '11 at 16:22
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That's quite a simplistic view of democracy, @paul23. Although it makes sense in theory, there's no shortage of issues for candidates to discuss in elections, and voters could easily agree with someone's position on SOPA while disagreeing with his positions on other topics (or vice versa). –  Pops Nov 29 '11 at 16:30
    
I'm afraid I can't do much more than Up vote.. :(.. But it would be sad to see sites deny people to comment and see the internet become a waste land just because some American politicians are not told what the bill actually is and what effect it would really have globally. –  WORMSS Nov 29 '11 at 16:30
    
Either that, or it would be funny to see ALL websites change to NON US servers and then have ISP's have to pay bigger charges for international data exchanges. See how quickly ISP giants complain then. –  WORMSS Nov 29 '11 at 16:32
    
@PopularDemand Well it happened here in the netherlands, a party "PVV" just stood on their heels when saying "NO" against the european global law, as well as some other popular statements (yet neglected by other politicians). That party suddenly gained from 5% now 15% of the votes - making it the third biggest party. –  paul23 Nov 29 '11 at 16:36
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@paul23: the US has only 2 parties (I'm fairly certain it is by law, because apparently you must be a member of one or the other, at least that is what FoxNews says). To be a member of any other party is not possible (you're probably a member of a cult or a child molester). In short, politics in the US share nothing in common with European countries. –  user7116 Nov 29 '11 at 16:39
    
@paul23, this bill does not use the traditional take down methods, instead it blocks access to the site, making it much easier and much quicker to block a site (it manipulates the DNS system, the system that translates the letters you enter into the address into the numbers the computer understands (there are other methods, so don't think you'll be able to get around it by just using the IP Address)) So the traditional move the site somewhere else will not work, neither will the "move the server outside of US juristriction" work, as it's the access which is blocked. –  Jonathan. Nov 29 '11 at 18:05
    
@sixlettervariables I can't believe a country which values personal freedom so highly (they even allow guns) doesn't allow a personal person to make a new party. Heck I find it hard too believe such a country doesn't have laws in place to protect those small parties from being overwhelmed. - But that again shows the difference in opinion on how to hold politics. Here demonstrations are a rarety, if there's so much dubiousity it's not more than normal a formal independent panel is formed, which is given 2-3 years to form a good overview. –  paul23 Nov 30 '11 at 12:39
    
@paul23: I was being facetious (but it is sad how right it sounds). –  user7116 Nov 30 '11 at 13:08

I think we shouldn't - Countries are different for a reason. It is because people of different origin live in those who don't share the same mentallity. You shouldn't try to enforce your own morals on others, and let others do as they wish. By trying to combine countries into one and trying to force your morals on other communities you help no one.

This is something from the US, and should be kept to the US.

Much better would be to hide the display on a global site, what is the point of me seeing the display. Do I have to site in my chair grasping for air thinking "oh no, those poor people overseas"? I can't do anything else.

EDIT: explain the downvote, I'm really wondering what's the point of displaying it to me when I can't do anything? - I'm really getting annoyed with this, do the people of the US think of themselves so high that they simply can't stand others saying "it's not important for me at all"? There are many countries (looking at you china) who have much worse laws, and getting worse day by day. Why dont'we put a permanent banner there?

You expect me to do anything about it? Well I told my premier (comparable to the persident) to not go to the olympic plays at china as they didn't allow for an open internet. What influence did that have?

0.

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25  
So when other countries adopt the measure because it went so well in the US and all your other sites are blocked/down/censored, who's left to raise a voice? –  random Nov 29 '11 at 16:12
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The whole "global site" argument breaks down really quickly when the country where the site is hosted introduces laws that affect it. –  Anna Lear Nov 29 '11 at 16:14
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Between the communists, trade unionists & jews there's bound to be someone :P.. But besides that: I'll raise my voice when it comes to MY country. For such rules there's bound to be a referendum, and then it is the place to talk. The problem I have is that I see a message everywhere, yet I can't do anything about it. You knkow, that's frustrating? –  paul23 Nov 29 '11 at 16:17
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To address "what is the point of me seeing the display": What if you don't want Stack Overflow to be shut down, but aren't an American yourself, but know Americans? Maybe you tell your American friends/relatives to try to stop SOPA. –  Pops Nov 29 '11 at 16:19
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@paul23 I'm not in the US either, but the banner doesn't bother me. I think it's important that SO raises awareness among their userbase about this bill. –  Anna Lear Nov 29 '11 at 16:22
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I completely agree - its a US law and so frakly as a non-US resident US politics and laws are none of my business. –  Justin Nov 29 '11 at 16:31
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You do realize that the law would require US-based ISPs to block/break DNS for sites accused of "infringement" - thus it could end up crippling sites based anywhere in the world, if a significant percentage of their traffic comes from the US. –  Carl Meyer Nov 29 '11 at 16:47
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-1 doesn't answer the question How can non-Americans help Stack Overflow in this matter?. You merely stated your opinion as to whether non-Americans should help. –  Jason Plank Nov 29 '11 at 17:07
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@JasonPlank "You can't, and you shouldn't" is a valid response to that question –  Yi Jiang Nov 29 '11 at 17:12
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Today it's in the US, tommorow it can be in EU! We must not be indolent and support each other. If you want to take it strictly economically, cooperation pays off. Moreover, if the website concerned is located in US, it affects EU also! –  Tomas Nov 29 '11 at 17:16
    
I hate english and I hate poems and how people interrupt them, but there's one where it goes about how you never speak up for the people taken by the government (set in some African country), and then 'you' get taken away and no one cares. Similar thing applies here. Under this bill sites like Youtube are ridiculously easy to block/shut down. –  Jonathan. Nov 29 '11 at 18:12
    
I'm not from the US, I'd like to downvote your answer yet I can't. I've had enough of US companies using criminal methods (anyone remember the Sony rootkit?), charge me double or more for the ssame digital content, or use their money to push other governments to pass laws that they can't (yet) pass in the US. –  Panagiotis Kanavos Nov 29 '11 at 18:13
    
The internet is international, but most of the biggest names on the internet are hosted in the US, and a large amount of page views come from there, and page views mean more ad revenue, so cut the page views, you cut the site revenue, making a lot harder to start sites, and to continue running them. Anyone who is thinking that "Oh I'm not in the US, this won't affect me" are wrong and frankly stupid for not seeing why. People outside the US hate seeing the US as a big world power, and when it comes the internet they are and you have to accept that, so don't go and say "if this was Germany" etc –  Jonathan. Nov 29 '11 at 18:13
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@Jonathan. I think this or some variant thereof is the poem you referenced. –  Jason Plank Nov 29 '11 at 19:02
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-1 it's all one system! if you haven't realized that by now, I'm wondering where you live and how you explain the concept of the internet to yourself... –  markus Nov 30 '11 at 13:52

You could have your government forces occupyliberate the United States of America.

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6  
It's terrifying how lightly you toss out this option. –  Kevin Vermeer Nov 29 '11 at 16:58
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We seem to toss it out pretty lightly ourselves. (as an ironic aside, I earned vote to close privs from this post) –  user7116 Nov 29 '11 at 17:25
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@sixlettervariables: The lobbyists are already occupying America. When SOPA passes, they will be along shortly after to shut down MetaSO due to the fact that your answer is ripping off their idea. ;) –  gnostradamus Nov 29 '11 at 20:10

You can donate money.

In principle SendWrite are still accepting donations, although they aren't accepting letters, but I have not seen how one donates.

The EFF has real lobbying skills; their donation page is at https://supporters.eff.org/donate - put something like "SOPA scares me" in the "Why I'm Contributing" box.

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