Flickr Joins SOPA Protest, Lets Users Black Out Photos

This morning, online photo sharing site Flickr joined the growing number of web companies protesting the SOPA and PIPA legislation, which now include Google, Wikipedia, Reddit, Mozilla, and others. For a 24-hour period, starting today, Flickr is letting its members darken their own photos in an effort to raise awareness about the proposed, highly damaging legislation. But that’s not all – Flickr is going a step further, and will allow users to darken other members’ photos, too. Now that’s what censorship really feels like.

For those unaware, living under rocks, etc., Congress is considering two bills, the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House, which would effectively censor the web. They’re the result of seriously misguided attempts to fight online piracy, which, if enacted, would eliminate due process and fundamentally change how the Internet works.

Flickr’s solution for awareness-raising is one of the more creative ones we’ve seen. Instead of taking its whole website down, as Wikipedia did, it’s allowing members to practice, and feel the effects of web censorship directly. Anyone can darken their own photos, but the kicker is that others’ can darken your own photos, too. That’s something that hits closer to home than web banners, blog posts, and cute videos.  Now, even if you’re trying to ignore the news of SOPA (hey, I can live without Wikipedia for a day!), you’ll know how it feels when powers beyond your control take away content you should have access to.

Well kind of.

According to Flickr’s announcement, members can only darken up to 10 photos, then the option will be taken away. (I guess they didn’t want big-time SOPA supporters spending all day blacking out its entire archive of photos? Too bad.) And since Flickr also offers a paid service used by professional photographers, there is an opt-out mechanism so your photos won’t be darkened, which you can choose from any photo.

Even though Flickr’s joining of the SOPA fight came at the last minute – early morning on protest day itself – it’s good to see another big name involved. For more information on SOPA, check out TechCrunch’s previous coverage here.

Update: As of 2 pm PT on 1/18/12 Flickr members darkened 219,644 photos and these blacked-out photos have received up to 1,034,896 views.