I recently asked on Twitter “Who remembers the SciFi short story ‘Slowly, one by one, the stars were going out’?” I went on to add “It’s happening with Twitter profile pictures“.

It turned out that this came from Arthur C Clark’s short story “The Nine Billion Names of God, although I’d misremembered the final sentence which, according to the entry in Wikipedia, actually read “overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out“.

Twitter blackoutThe reason many people are blacking out their profile image  is to express support for the New Zealand Internet Blackout campaign. This campaign, which has successfully made use of a number of social networking services (and not just Twitter) in a viral fashion to protest against a new law in New Zealand – the Guilt Upon Accusation law ‘Section 92A’. As described in a post on the Read Write Webblog “this law may have major implications for Internet users in NZ, because it calls for internet disconnection “based on accusations of copyright infringement without a trial and without any evidence held up to court scrutiny.

The use of social networking services as a way of exploiting the network effects in protests against political decisions which seek to impose restrictions on Internet services is not restricted to just New Zealand. I was surprised to learn recently that in Australia, as described on the No Clean Feed Web site: “The Australian Federal Government is pushing forward with a plan to force Internet Service Providers [ISPs] to censor the Internet for all Australians. This cheap medications india plan will waste tens of millions of taxpayer dollars and slow down Internet access“.  Regional protests, such as the No Clean Feed Canberra rally held in December 2008 made use of  Facebook event page. to provide details of the rally (with an alternate page provided for those who could not/would not access Facebook).

Now I haven’t blacked out my Twitter (or Facebook) profile, although I would agree that the proposed developments (in Australia as well as New Zealand) are to be regretted. I’ve chosen not to do this as I prefer to reserve any protests I may wish to make to something I feel more strongly about – and rationing such protests should enhance the impact of any campaigns which I may chose to support. I also find that blacked out profile pictures is reducing the usefulness of Twitter, as it is more difficult to see who is writing the tweets.

However that is not to say that I do not want to contribute to the protests, so I am writing this post in order to alert readers of this blog who may not be aware of the New Zealand Internet Blackout campaign (and I know that not everyone is a regular Twitter user and so may not have seen these blacked out images). I also thought it would be worth embedded this YouTube video:


Note that if you wish to join in with this campaign you’ll have to hurry as the dates of the campaign are 16-23 February 2009