Yesterday, there was a 24-hour Internet blackout and widespread protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) before the House and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) before the Senate. The unprecedented protest of these two bills had the full support of Wikipedia, Google, Facebook, and countless other influential websites, businesses, and individuals.
Wikipedia provided users with the contact information for their Senators and Congressmen and displayed the following message in lieu of the normal Wikipedia result:
“For over a decade, we have spent millions of hours building the largest encyclopedia in human history. Right now, the U.S. Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open Internet. For 24 hours, to raise awareness, we are blacking out Wikipedia.”
Google blacked out their logo on the homepage and had a prominent link to an infographic, anti-SOPA/PIPA message, and a petition:
“There’s no need to make American social networks, blogs and search engines censor the Internet or undermine the existing laws that have enabled the Web to thrive, creating millions of U.S. jobs.Too much is at stake – please vote NO on PIPA and SOPA.”
Facebook posted a public informational page against SOPA/PIPA and CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted the following message on Facebook:
“The internet is the most powerful tool we have for creating a more open and connected world. We can’t let poorly thought out laws get in the way of the internet’s development. Facebook opposes SOPA and PIPA, and we will continue to oppose any laws that will hurt the internet.”
The combination of the largest technology companies speaking out against SOPA/PIPA and millions of constituents signing petitions and contacting representatives directly proved to be highly effective. By the end of the day, multiple House members and 13 Senators announced they now opposed the bill. Among those withdrawing support were the original PIPA bill co-sponsors Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) and rising star Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). Marco Rubio said the following on his Facebook page:
“Earlier this year, this bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously and without controversy. Since then, we’ve heard legitimate concerns about the impact the bill could have on access to the Internet and about a potentially unreasonable expansion of the federal government’s power to impact the Internet. Congress should listen and avoid rushing through a bill that could have many unintended consequences. Therefore, I have decided to withdraw my support for the Protect IP Act.”
Although SOPA and PIPA now face an uphill battle, there is still substantial support and lobbying for the bills. However, due to the widespread blackout and unified public protest, it is unlikely that either bill will pass in its current state.