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Thursday, January 19, 2012
Internet Activism Forces Members of Congress Abandon PIPA and SOPA

Yesterday, in the largest online protest in Internet history, more than 75,000 websites altered millions of web pages to stand in opposition to SOPA and PIPA 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.

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. 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."

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. 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."

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. After 24 hours of online darkness, the House now has at least 87 opponents of SOPA, and only 27 on-the-record supporters.

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."

Despite the protests, PIPA and SOPA are still alive. According to Open Congress, there are still 33 co-sponsors of PIPA and the Senate bringing PIPA to the floor next week. 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."

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 and growth and must be stopped completely.

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