Why It Would Be Wrong for Facebook & Twitter to Go Dark for SOPA (or Any Other Occassion)

Tahrir Square in Egypt during the height of the revolution

Wikipedia, Reddit and thousands of other websites have gone dark in protest of SOPA and PIPA. The controversial laws, as I explained to The Consumerist, open the door to “your favorite websites [getting] penalized, blacklisted or even shut down due to a copyright infringement lawsuit.”

The protests have done their job — the mainstream public now aware of these laws, but some are arguing that it’s not enough. Chris Taylor of Mashable recently argued that Facebook should go dark for the day to protest these laws as well. He’s not the only one, though. Jay Rosen of NYU and Alex Howard of O’Reilly both suggested that Twitter should go dark as well.

Suggesting that two of the world’s major communication platforms should shut down in protest of a law that governs only a minority of its users is not just lunacy, but downright irresponsible.

Right now, thousands of people are using Facebook and Twitter to organize protests against SOPA. But more importantly, Twitter and Facebook are still being used as communication platforms to coordinate revolutions and inspire freedom. Shutting down Facebook and Twitter closes down communication platforms that have become just as important as email and cell phones.

How would you feel if AT&T, Verizon or Google shut down your cell phones and emails for a protest? It would also be an irresponsible move.

This isn’t about economics (though billions would be lost if Facebook and Twitter shut down for the day) — it’s about freedom of communication. Shutting down two of the most vital communication platforms in the world, no matter the reason, is just wrong. Just imagine if they had been shut down during the Tunisian revolution. Hell, Egypt actually did it during the revolution in its country. You’d be doing them a favor.

In his piece, Chris Taylor also argues that shutting down Facebook would make him into an instant Washington power player. But it probably would have unintended consequences as well. People in power tend to push back, and you can bet that Congress wouldn’t sit back and take a middle finger from Zuckerberg.

So stop criticizing Facebook and Twitter for not shutting down. The unintended consequences would be dire. Those two companies are better off using their communication platforms to spread word of the SOPA protests instead.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Drumzo