A massive online protest extending from various social media platforms into some of the web's most popular sites against the pending Stop Online Piracy Act (HR 3261), and the Protect IP Act (SB 968) bills is being called the largest such protest in history and has reportedly caused numerous Congresspeople to rethink or change their support for the bills.
On Jan. 18, thousands of websites across the world protested the two pieces of legislation that many say give large media conglomerates and the federal government unprecedented powers to censor the Internet.
Mega websites including Google, WordPress, Wikipedia, and thousands of others censored all or part of their home pages, in most cases blacking them out and directing visitors to online petitions and the Congressional emails and switchboards of their representatives.
The magnitude of the protests have created an undeniable buzz and forced mainstream media outlets to step up and begin covering the controversial bills, a victory for grassroots activists who believe that the success of the anti-SOPA and anti-PIPA protest can be duplicated in opposition to other controversial bills in the future.
The outcry against the bills was so strong and visible that House majority leader Eric Cantor said that SOPA will now be shelved “unless there is a consensus on the bill.”
The PIPA bill remains a threat according to those who advocate for Internet freedom, however, and is set to be voted on January 24.
Evidence of the protest's political impact has emerged from across Capitol Hill. Staff members reported heavy call volumes as at least 19 senators declared their opposition to PIPA. The website SopaStrike.com is among those leading the fight against it.
The numbers for protest participants are staggering: Tens of millions of Americans came out against the bills along with millions overseas.
The Wikimedia Foundation said that 162 million people visited the site's popular user-edited Encyclopedia and more than 8 million of their readers looked up the contact info of their individual members of the U.S. Congress through the site.
Facebook and Twitter posts also were ubiquitous, drawing major attention to the bills. Some circulated posts and photos even took aim at the United States' attitude toward Internet freedom, noting their criticism of repressive governments in China and the Arab World for example while also pointing out the introduction of the United States' own set of anti-Internet freedom bills.
The success of the protests were tempered by an announcement on Jan. 19 that the popular file-sharing website MegaUploads.com had been shut down and several of its key contributors were arrested in various countries on piracy charges.
In response to the shutdown, the hacker group Anonymous reportedly targeted the Justice Department, Universal Music, the RIAA, and MPAA.