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Paint it black: A guide for protesting SOPA

Here's a quick round-up of all the different ways to possibly black-out your blog, website, or Twitter profile in opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act. 


Lorraine Murphy


Posted on Jan 16, 2012   Updated on Jun 2, 2021, 10:41 pm CDT

Concerned about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), two terribly unpopular pieces of legislation that could drastically hinder freedom of speech on the Web? Don’t just take a number; take action.

On January 18, Reddit is leading an Internet blackout for 12 hours. If you’d like to take part, there are several ways you can turn your own blog or website dark in solidarity with other protesters around the world.

Anonymous has gone ahead and done a round-up, with example pages linked in the following URLs. Thanks, guys; you make my job so easy. (How many people can say that to Anonymous?)

For the Apache warriors among us, here is a way to configure your server to black-out your sites. This is a nifty and elegant javascript solution for WordPress.org sites, explained for civilians here.

If you have a WordPress.com blog, like 25 million or so other people, you’re a little more restricted; no javascript or fancy plugins for you, buddy. But the WP.com community has stepped up and offered a variety of solutions in their support forum.

Automattic staff member James Huff suggests:

We don’t have anything specific planned for SOPA Day yet, but if we do something site-wide, it will be non-disruptive, or rather no more disruptive than the snow was.

If you want to do something yourself, you can add the following as an untitled Text widget:

<a target=’_blank’ class=’stop-sopa-ribbon’ href=’http://americancensorship.org/’><img src='[image URL]’ alt=’Stop SOPA’ style=’position:fixed;top:0;right:0;z-index:100000;cursor:pointer;’ /></a>

The ribbon for use with this can be downloaded from [here] and uploaded to your own blog via Media -> Add New in your Dashboard. Editing the newly uploaded image in the Media section will show you the image’s URL to enter in the code above.

As you can guess, this is more or less the [WordPress] plugin. Plugins can’t be used on WordPress.com, but this one seems to function just fine in a Text widget.

This solution should work for any standard blog with a widget-enabled sidebar area.

Community member Panos Adams offered a more comprehensive solution:

If you want “a totally black screen with “Stop SOPA” in giant white letters”, go to Appearance > Background, set the bg color to #000, then go to Appearance > Widget, add a Text widget to the primary sidebar, and paste this in it:

<div align=”center” style=”position:fixed;width:100%;height:100%;top:0;right:0;background-color:#000;text-align:center;font-size:800%;font-weight:bold;padding-top:300px;”><a style=”color:#fff;” href=”URL” target=”_blank”>Stop SOPA</a></div>

(I’ve turned “Stop SOPA” into a link: replace URL with the actual URL of a page that explains what this is about.)

And WordPress expert Lorelle van Fossen has provided a couple of full-size banners suitable for blacking out at least the entire landing area of your blog.

If you don’t own a website, there’s a way to way to protest online. As previously reported by the Daily Dot, #BlackoutSOPA  makes it easy to become the face of censorship on Twitter by changing your profile picture.

For those of you without blogs to black out or Twitter avatars to armband in solidarity, Giga Om has six actions you can take.

  • Call your Congressional Representative
  • Write your Congressional Representative
  • Visit Congressional Representative
  • Tell your friends
  • Tell your employer (people still have those in this economy?)
  • Support the EFF
  • Special bonus item: Take action against the 439 companies and organizations that have publicly supported SOPA.

If you’ve done all that and still feel like taking action, you can always wear all black and tell yourself you’re an anti-SOPA ninja. Everyone else will just assume you’re from New York.

Illustration by Lauren Orsini

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*First Published: Jan 16, 2012, 11:44 am CST