Yesterday, in the largest online protest in Internet history, more than 115,000 websites altered millions of web pages to stand in opposition to SOPA and PIPA, the Internet blacklist bills. Some sites — Wikipedia, Reddit, Boing Boing, Craigslist and others — completely shut down for the day, replacing their sites with material to educate the public about the bill’s dangers. Others, like Google and Mozilla, sent users to a petition or action center to express their concerns to Congress.
While the final results are still being tabulated, EFF alone helped users send over 1,000,000 emails to Congress, and countless more came from other organizations. Web traffic briefly brought down the Senate website. 162 million people visited Wikipedia and eight million looked up their representatives’ phone numbers. Google received over 7 million signatures on their petition. Talking Points Memo has a great round up of more of the staggering numbers. The sum of the protest, as the New York Times declared, sent “an unmistakable message to lawmakers grappling with new media issues: Don’t mess with the Internet.”
And members of Congress were quick to react.
Republican Marco Rubio started the day by announcing his opposition, despite formerly being a co-sponsor. South Carolina Republican and tea party favorite Jim DeMint soon followed, as long did longtime Senator Orrin Hatch. Even ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa “withdrew his support for a bill he helped write.” Senator Rand Paul went further, saying he was committed to filibustering the bill and he will “do everything in [his] power to stop government censorship of the Internet.”
Democratic Senators also voiced their opposition to PIPA. Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley thanked constituents for sending him so many emails and said he would vote against the bill. Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal also announced he would not support PIPA as written. The popular Senate candidate from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, also said she opposed PIPA and SOPA, stating they "risk chilling the innovation, diversity & free exchange of ideas that define the Internet." (Her opponent, Scott Brown, also opposed PIPA the day before.)
All told, the Senate gained 19 NO votes yesterday, including seven who were previously co-sponsors of the bill, according to Ars Technica. The House followed the same pattern. A few members even blacked out their own websites in solidarity with the protests. After 24 hours of online darkness, the House now has at least 87 opponents of SOPA, and only 27 on-the-record supporters.
January 18th was a truly historic day for Internet activism. Pro Publica reported the day before the blackout, there were 80 on-the-record supporters and 31 opponents in all of Congress. The day after, there are now 101 opponents and only 65 supporters—and that number is still changing. Rep. Zoe Lofgren summed up the accomplishments when she said, “Too often, legislation is about competing business interests. This is way beyond that. This is individual citizens rising up.”
Unfortunately, PIPA and SOPA are still very much alive. According to Open Congress, there are still 33 co-sponsors of PIPA. With the Senate bringing PIPA to the floor next week, we cannot expect the content groups to give up without a fight. The entertainment industry is already threatening to cut off campaign donations to President Obama’s re-election campaign. Chief lobbyist of the MPAA, Chris Dodd, also lashed out at the blackout yesterday, saying it was a “gimmick,” and even “dangerous.”
Dodd, whose industry outspent the tech sector 13-1 in Congress, oddly called the political protest “an abuse of power.” But as yesterday proved, most Americans believe the vast authority given to corporations and the government to permanently shut down websites under PIPA and SOPA would be the real “abuse of power.”
Harry Reid has already indicated the Senate will release a manager’s amendment to PIPA, but the public has made its views clear: PIPA and SOPA endanger free speech and threaten online innovation; they must be stopped completely.
We must continue to send that message until Congress drops the blacklist legislation permanently. Please take action and tell your representative in Congress to oppose this bill. You can also invite your friends on Facebook to participate in a call-in day on January 23rd. The vote is less than a week away — your voice is needed now more than ever.