Last week proved to be an important one in the ongoing saga of the horrendous Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the House of Representatives’ Internet blacklist bill: the House Judiciary Committee held the first hearing on the bill Wednesday. Over the past several weeks, we’ve been highlighting why this bill is such a disaster; how it could take your favorite sites offline, how it could endanger software innovation, how it could threaten whistleblowers and human rights, and how, no matter what the US Chamber of Commerce wants to call it, it’s definitely a blacklist bill.
So the stakes were high, and the hearing faced problems from the start. In spite of widespread opposition to the bill, the scheduled testimonies consisted mostly of known supporters, including many who had helped draft the legislation in the first place. Public interest groups, independent artists, technology companies and Internet engineers were largely shut out of the discussion. To compound the problem, the webcast of the event was extremely unstable, making it even more difficult for the public to observe and participate.
But Wednesday also marked the launch of the American Censorship Day campaign, which allowed individual website owners to collect signatures from people opposed to SOPA and the censorship it would enable. More than 6,000 websites participated, including major online destinations like boingboing, Reddit, 4chan, and even Rep. Zoe Lofgren’s home page. Mozilla and the popular blogging platform Tumblr both ran prominent promotions on their start pages as well.
The results were spectacular. Over a million e-mails sent through the American Censorship Day campaign alone. Our action center has collected another quarter of a million signatures against the bill. And Tumblr users spent a total of 1,293 hours making 87,934 calls to Congress.
Rep. Darrell Issa said Wednesday that he doesn’t “believe the bill has any chance on the House floor,” but now is not the time to let the guard down. We’ve made some major progress against this bill, but the fight is far from over. If you haven’t yet taken action against SOPA and its Senate counterpart PROTECT IP, now is the time.