Internet black-out to protest against the Guilt Upon Accusation law

This morning I noticed several peoples avatars on Twitter and Facebook were blacked out. At first I thought this was just TweetDeck playing up but then, thanks to @jensview,  it became apparent that it was an ‘Internet black out’ as a protest against the proposed Guilt Upon Accusation law coming into effect in New Zealand later this month.

According to CreativeFreedom NZ its a…

protest against the Guilt Upon Accusation law ‘Section 92A‘ that calls for Internet disconnection based on accusations of copyright infringement without a trial and without any evidence held up to court scrutiny. This is due to come into effect on February 28th unless immediate action is taken by the National Party.

I totally agree in principle that this sounds like a ridiculous law and worthy of protest. However, I’m unsure about the form of protest.

Over the past decade or so the Internet has proved to be a very powerful tool in communicating unjust acts and assisting groups or individuals to fuel protest, but my feelings are mixed about the benefits of this Internet black out. What do they hope to achieve?

The fact that its growing on Twitter, getting celebrity endorsement and people like myself are blogging about it means the issue will start to gain momentum but is it really an effective form of protest?

In my mind this doesn’t achieve a huge amount. Changing my avatar is a simple act, I don’t have to think about it, so in that respect is it a throw away gesture, will people think about what (and why) they are doing it or will they simply jump on the bandwagon? Obviously it’ll get the message out to a wider audience but without a meaningful argument behind it many people may just see it as an error and not as a form of protest, or see it as a form of protest and give it no more thought.

I would have thought that different acts of protest would be assigned different levels of importance by governments or large corporate organisation, ranging from physical ‘crowd’ protests or sitdown protests through to submitted written petitions. Surely such an action like this would register relatively low on the scale. Although I’m sure it’ll gain global media coverage it has no measurable aspect to it. How can you quantify the number of profile pictures that are blacked-out?

Although there are links floating around directing people to the Creative Freedom website in my opinion its much like a viral or emarketing campaign that links through to a page with no clear call to action, in affect causing the user to enter a state of  ‘now what?’ Seeing the faces of people I respect and follow on Twitter turning blank definitely roused some interest and led me to look into it further but when I arrived on the Creative Freedom website I was met by instructions on how to change my photo to a black graphic and which websites I could do it on. There is a link to a petition on the website but this didn’t seem to be the main focus and I only found it after I dug deeper.

And finally what about location sensitive content? Even if I signed the petition will it count for anything as I’m not a resident (or ex-pat) of New Zealand? Does my signature go so far as to weaken it?

I don’t mean to belittle the protest in the slightest as it does seem a worthwhile cause, all I’m questioning is the merits of the approach. I’d be really interested to hear other peoples views on this so please feel free to leave a comment.