The internet is going to stop working properly. For now, it’s just for one day, though campaigners warn it might be a preview of the future.

The world’s biggest websites are going to grind to a halt – slowing down, or stopping working in other ways – in protest against intrusions onto net neutrality.

It won’t be the first time that companies have sabotaged their own websites in defence of the idea that the internet should remain neutral, and that internet providers and other companies shouldn’t be able to privilege some kinds of internet traffic over others. But it comes at an especially contentious time, with campaigners and companies warning that the Federal Communications Commission could be close to undermining one of the internet’s central principles.

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“The FCC wants to destroy net neutrality and give big cable companies control over what we see and do online,” a website for the protest – known as the ‘Battle For The Net’ – reads. “If they get their way, they’ll allow widespread throttling, blocking, censorship, and extra fees.”

The commission’s chairman, Ajit Pai, has committed to do away with some of the regulation governing how internet companies work. That includes parts of the Obama era Open Internet Order – which campaigners say is central to upholding the principle, and which regulators say is unnecessary and harms competition. 

It isn’t clear how exactly the companies will join the protest. Previous examples have centred around slowing the internet down – usually by making it appear that websites aren’t working properly, and then showing messages warning that could be the future of the web.

The full list of participants is huge, though some may opt to take part in more or less obvious ways. It includes many of the world’s most popular websites, like Reddit, Netflix and Pornhub; companies that run technologies that are central to the functioning of the internet, like Github and Mozilla; alongside traditional campaign groups.

Some other companies – including Facebook and Google – have said they’ll take part in the protest but aren’t listed on the official site.

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