A lot of websites, including ours, went black on Wednesday 18th January 2012 in an attempt to try to raise awareness of the SOPA and PIPA legislation currently proposed in the USA. I’ve been reading a few articles over the past few days questioning whether an internet wide protest is the most effective way of fighting things. However, here’s a few reasons why it has been effective.
Senators were inundated:
Many of the Senator’s websites crashed throughout the day due to the high volume of traffic they were receiving. Switchboards were also overloaded as constituents telephoned to pass on the message that they are against the proposed SOPA and PIPA legislation. This was a direct result of websites such as Wikipedia, Google and WordPress displaying search facilities for you to be able to find out the contact details and websites for your local Senator.
Huge numbers of people signed petitions:
Google chose to add their weight by launching an online petition for people to sign. This has attracted a reported 7 million signatures, not bad for a day’s work. It would be questionable if so many people would have signed such a petition were it not for the publicity gained from the blackout.
NY Tech held an emergency meeting in response to the blackout and to speak out against SOPA and PIPA. They attracted large numbers in their support which reportedly span several blocks. Other cities to hold these meetings included Seattle and San Francisco.
Those are just some of the reasons why the blackout was so effective in getting US citizens to speak out against SOPA and PIPA. Ultimately, there’s been a huge amount of publicity from the blackout, millions more people have taken to contacting their Senators to get across their views and signed petitions. Millions more now know what SOPA and PIPA are and how much damage they could cause to a free internet in America. Not to forget that were the blackout to not have been as big a success it could have quite easily signalled to other countries around the world that this legislation would be worth including in their own countries.
TechCrunch reported on Thursday 19th January 2012 that from information sourced from ProPublica the amount of members of Congress in support of SOPA/PIPA went from 80 members to just 63 following the blackout. It meant that an incredible 91 members chose to stop backing the legislation overnight. The image below depicts this in graphical form.All of the hard work leading up to and including the blackout has in a way paid off since Congress has decided to postpone the voting of the legislation for a few weeks time, although no date has yet been set. Whether or not Senators choose to change their stance nearer to the actual vote remains to be seen but I doubt SOPA or PIPA will be able to continue under the current names and format.
The annoying thing is that even if they don’t get through this time there is no doubt about it that this type of legislation will be back under another guise with a new name and some slightly different wording in the future. However, whatever the name of the next piece of legislation that tries to do exactly the same thing as SOPA and PIPA, we must remember what happened on the 18th January 2012 and use it as an example that we can protect our right to a free and uncensored internet. Wikipedia have already said that the blackout was and is only the beginning and I would imagine that other sites such as Reddit, Google, WordPress and more will continue to fight whatever threatens the free internet to the end.The many faces of the sites during the blackout:
I’ve put together a small gallery below of screen grabs of just some of the website’s homepages which took part in the blackout and openly showing their disapproval of the SOPA/PIPA legislation.