SOPA protest page and 503 redirect

Tomorrow, 18t January 2012, many websites will protest against the US SOPA and PIPA acts. For example Wikipedia will go blank in protest for 24 hours.

For those intending to blackout their own websites (or in the future intend to do something similar, e.g. a more practical "web site temporarily down message" while doing an upgrade etc, here are a few tips:

First of all Google recommend you do not simple just change your website front page to a blank page or similar. As this can have repercussions on your SEO, ie your search ranking. Read more about it in this post on Google+ by a Googler. They recommend a 503 error response instead. Which indicates the site is temporarily down.

So a simple change of index.html is not recommended. Nor is a simple redirect in the html's meta header, nor a plain http 302 redirect. All this can affect your ranking.

I recommend (if using Apache 2) to use mod_rewrite in this manner:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{ENV:REDIRECT_STATUS} !=503
Alias /stop-sopa /var/www/stop-sopa
ErrorDocument 503 /stop-sopa/index.html
RewriteRule !^s/stop-sopa$ /stop-sopa [L,R=503]


This uses Alias to another folder so that the same message can be used for several virtual hosts. It uses a custom ErrorDocument to display a human readable blackout page. And it uses RewriteRule to redirect all requests to the stop-sopa page (except for request for /stop-sopa so that you don't get an infinite loop).

If you are looking for a page to use as the blackout page, there is a nice github project page for just that. An example can be viewed here.






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