The proposed — and half-dead — legislation cuts to the core of what we do, and how we live.
BuzzFeed readers may be wondering today: WTF? What happened to our logo, and to our reaction buttons?
We've blocked them out in solidarity with the web-wide protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act, as drafted, and against the Protect IP Act, companion pieces of legislation nominally aimed at the legitimate goal of protecting original content from outright theft, but written so broadly that they could outlaw much of the last decade's media revolution. The impulse it acts on basically rejects the startling, wonderful media developments of the last decade, during which journalism -- allegedly dead -- has been vibrantly reborn.
Like virtually all media companies today, from Fox News and the New York Times to Tumblr and Twitter, BuzzFeed proudly produces our own great original content and pays a large and appropriate monthly fee to the wire services whose photographs we are honored to use. BuzzFeed, like all those companies, also gleefully comments on, shares, and remixes images, words, and ideas. Though SOPA is explicitly aimed at targeting overseas websites that profit from outright piracy, it could wind up placing the burden on publishers to pour resources into policing every image or sentence submitted by a user, and essentially remove entire sites from the Internet when they're accused of erring.
The legislation could also be a government-provided cudgel in a competitive marketplace. Wikipedia warns: "Big media companies may seek to cut off funding sources for their foreign competitors, even if copyright isn't being infringed. Foreign sites will be blacklisted, which means they won't show up in major search engines. And, SOPA and PIPA build a framework for future restrictions and suppression."
BuzzFeed isn't in the advocacy business. Don't expect us to weigh in on political or policy issues again any time soon. But like most news organizations, we have core values, which we think are obvious, and this seems as good a time as any to state them: We're in favor of free people and free information, against private or state-sponsored discrimination or censorship. Our reporting staff will cover people who agree and who disagree with us with respect and clarity. But BuzzFeed's opposition to SOPA and PIPA isn't about us expressing our opinion; it's a simpler matter of stating our identity. We hope you'll join us in trying to keep the Internet free.