Jan 2012 18

by Nicole Powers

Despite the fact that the sound of crickets could be heard in all the coolest corners of the web, it was an EPIC day in internet history as thousands of sites went dark to protest SOPA and its sister act PIPA.

Here’s a roundup of some of the sites that voluntarily plunged themselves into a temporary dark age for the greater good:







[Firefox / Mozilla]


[Rawstory hit Hitler’s Bunker for audiovisual inspiration]



[Minecraft‘s graphic hit the mark]

[Fark went light]

[The Funny Died at Funny Or Die]

[Google continued searching…but still made their point]

[the Electronic Frontier Foundation]

It was also a great day for activism, with over 1 million emails sent to congress via the EFF action center.

Some Senators failed to hear the call of the internet, even as their sites turned into floundering fail whales

[Oh Noes Newt!]

While other Representatives rose to the challenge:


After being bombarded by phone calls, emails and online petitions, several senators distanced themselves from SOPA, with a total of 10 withdrawing their support by day’s end. Meanwhile, with many of their fave sites offline, internet lovers in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Vegas took to the streets, and members of the artistic community made their voice herd with an open letter to Washington (via Neil Gaiman’s blog):

We, along with the rest of society, have benefited immensely from a free and open Internet. It allows us to connect with our fans and reach new audiences. Using social media services like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, we can communicate directly with millions of fans and interact with them in ways that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.

We fear that the broad new enforcement powers provided under SOPA and PIPA could be easily abused against legitimate services like those upon which we depend. These bills would allow entire websites to be blocked without due process, causing collateral damage to the legitimate users of the same services – artists and creators like us who would be censored as a result.

We are deeply concerned that PIPA and SOPA’s impact on piracy will be negligible compared to the potential damage that would be caused to legitimate Internet services. Online piracy is harmful and it needs to be addressed, but not at the expense of censoring creativity, stifling innovation or preventing the creation of new, lawful digital distribution methods.

But the MPAA and much of Hollywood’s old guard remained defiant, their refusal to understand the new paradigm and their determination to wage war against their greatest consumers and turn their customers and champions into a criminal class merely underlining how out of touch they are with their future sales base and the outlets that promote their wares. (One genius meme likened SOPA to dealing with a lion that has escaped from a zoo by blasting some kittens with a flamethrower, which was a pretty damn accurate metaphor.) In a statement yesterday (see excerpt below) and via multiple (and quite absurd) tweets, the MPAA explained/excused their pro-SOPA stance by blaming foreign criminals, claiming that they were taking action to defend “American jobs” (and not the movie studios’ bottom lines) – this, despite the fact that SOPA would put many websites like our own – and the jobs of the people who work at them – in jeopardy.

“…A so-called ‘blackout’ is yet another gimmick, albeit a dangerous one, designed to punish elected and administration officials who are working diligently to protect American jobs from foreign criminals. It is our hope that the White House and the Congress will call on those who intend to stage this “blackout” to stop the hyperbole and PR stunts and engage in meaningful efforts to combat piracy.”

– excerpt from a statement by Senator Chris Dodd, Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA)

Though many of the politicians that support SOPA, and the corporations that bought them, also remained unrepentant, the unprecedented day of internet action thrust the issue to the fore, educating many who were previously unaware of the bill and forcing the mainstream media – however unwillingly – to report a little of the Orwellian reality that SOPA would bring.

The internet, and all the freedom fighters who sail on her, should give themselves a +1 for today.

**Updates – Thursday, January 19**

According to Wikipedia editor Aaron Muszalski (aka @sfslim), over 150 Million people have viewed Wikipedia’s blackout page!

PIPA support collapses: According to Arstechnica, 18 Senators, of which 7 are former co-sponsors, now oppose bill.

Yahoo News / Digital Trends has an excellent article which breaks down the SOPA/PIPA blackout by the numbers. It includes the following statistics:

75,000: Approximate of websites that participated in the blackout, according to, which helped organize the protest.

25,000: Number of WordPress blogs that completely blacked out their sites to protest the bills

162 million: Number of people who saw the Wikipedia blackout page

4.5 million: Number of people who signed Google’s anti-SOPA petition on Wednesday

2 million: Number of emails sent through the Electronic Frontier Foundation, FFTF and Demand Progress

25: Number of senators who publicly opposed PIPA after the blackout went into effect

13: Number of additional senators who are “leaning towards opposition,” according to OpenCongress

The Los Angeles Times reports that “8 million U.S. readers took Wikipedia’s suggestion and looked up their congressional reps from the site.”

As reported by Rawstory, during Thursdays GOP debate in South Carolina, all four remaining Republican presidential candidates said they did not support SOPA.

From Techrunch: “At the beginning of Janaury 18th, there were 80 members of congress who supported the legislation, and 31 opponents. Now, just 63 support SOPA-PIPA, and opposition has surged to 122, according to ProPublica.”

Following the anti-SOPA online blackout, the Wall Street Journal reports that most of the bill’s remaining supporters are, somewhat ironically, on the left. “It’s a tougher call for some Democrats, thanks in part to the bill’s strong union backing and the fact that Hollywood has opened its collective wallet wider for Democrats historically,” the publication explains.

**Updates – Friday, January 20**

[Ding Dong The Wicked Witches Are Dead – Sort Of]

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced he will postpone next Tuesday’s PIPA vote [Source: TPM].

The full statement from Chairman Smith on the Senate’s delay of the vote on PIPA can be found here.

SOPA sponsor Rep. Lamar Smith announced he will postpone the bill’s markup hearing which was scheduled to resume in February. [Source: TPM].