Blacking out your WordPress blog to protest SOPA / PIPA

If you blog, you’re probably aware that January 18, 2012 has been chosen by many websites as a day of protest against the draconian Stop Online Protection Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) under consideration by the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, respectively.

Sites that are planning to participate in the protest will be black, with a protest message in white text.

However, sites that have the same message on multiple pages, or copy a protest message from another (unrelated) site, could have their Search Engine Optimization ranking reduced, since Google rates sites with non-unique content very low. To prevent this, Google’s Pierre Far recommends that sites return a 503 HTTP status code while the site is blacked out.

The 503 status code tells Google’s “spider” that the site is temporarily unavailable. Google won’t attempt to index the content on the site while the 503 status code is being returned, and one’s Google search engine ranking won’t be hurt on January 18th.

If you have a WordPress site and wouldn’t have a clue how to hack WordPress to return a 503 status code, you’re in luck. has a plugin available for the January 18th protest. The plugin will return the 503 “site temporarily unavailable” status code and allow you to customize your blackout page with your own message.

The installation is simple:

  1. Unzip and upload the contained files to the /wp-content/plugins/ directory
  2. Activate the plugin through the ‘Plugins’ menu in WordPress

Unfortunately for me, this blog (Evolving Code Monkey) and my current career / career change / content creator blog (Edward Spurlock CC) use the BlogEngine.NET blogging software, and no one has released a plugin to allow a BlogEngine blog owner to easily blackout the page(s) and return the 503 status code.

The best I’ll be able to do will be to work up a custom theme (if I can do so in a hurry) and post temporary posts for the day, while leaving the rest of the blog online (viewable in the custom theme). That, and I can change my profile pic on Facebook and LinkedIn to be a black square with “stop SOPA” in white letters.

If you’re using WordPress on your own domain name for your blog and want to participate in the blackout, download, install, and configure the SOPA Blackout plugin before tomorrow!

And if you want to change your profile pic on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter for the day to join in the protest, visit or create a blackout pic manually.

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