SOPA protests in numbers: Wikipedia hails blackout “a success”

20/01/2012

Wikipedia’s 24 hour blackout to protest new anti-piracy bill in the US has been hailed a success by its founders. The online encylopedia was joined by a number of other popular websites, including WordPress, Firefox-owner Mozilla, user-generated news site Reddit and the blog Boing Boing. The websites effectively shut down for 24 hours from 5am on Wednesday 18th January.

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The sites' webmasters are opposed to the Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (Pipa) being debated by Congress.

Google supported the protests, but rather than shut down, US visitors to Google saw their logo blacked out with the phrase ‘Tell Congress: Please don’t censor the web!‘

The controversial bills have come under criticism from many large Internet companies, and if passed could give powers to large media companies which would enable them to shut down websites they suspected of piracy.

In a statement, BoingBoing explained how it could affect sites on their blackout page: ‘The legislation is called the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), and would put us in legal jeopardy if we linked to a site anywhere online that had any links to copyright infringement.’

Below are some key stats on the protest:

- 4.5 million people signed Google's anti-SOPA/PIPA petition, according to the Los Angeles Times

-25 Senators now oppose PIPA (the Senate version of SOPA), according to OpenCongress

-Twitter saw more than 2.4 million SOPA-related tweets between midnight and 4 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday

-Two SOPA co-sponsors and several others dropped support for the House bill

-More than 162 million people saw Wikipedia's protest page

-More than 8 million people used Wikipedia's search tool to look up their elected representatives' contact information

-News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch accused "the blogosphere" of "terrorizing many senators and congressmen who previously committed" to SOPA and PIPA.

-Conservative publication The National Review called on Congress to dump SOPA

Wikipedia was blacked out for 24 hours. Readers who came to it could not read the free editable encyclopaedia, but instead were shown messages about Sopa and Pipa and encouraged to contact their representatives to speak out against the Bills.

Following the blackout, the website sported a “thank you” banner at the top of its page, with organisers claiming more than 162 million people had seen the blackout.

A message on the site said:

“The Wikipedia blackout is over - and you have spoken. More than 162 million people saw our message asking if you could imagine a world without free knowledge. You said no. You shut down Congress’s switchboards. You melted their servers. From all around the world your messages dominated social media and the news. Millions of people have spoken in defence of a free and open Internet. For us, this is not about money. It’s about knowledge. As a community of authors, editors, photographers, and programmers, we invite everyone to share and build upon our work. Our mission is to empower and engage people to document the sum of all human knowledge, and to make it available to all humanity, in perpetuity. We care passionately about the rights of authors, because we are authors. Sopa and Pipa are not dead: they are waiting in the shadows. What’s happened in the last 24 hours, though, is extraordinary. The internet has enabled creativity, knowledge, and innovation to shine, and as Wikipedia went dark, you’ve directed your energy to protecting it. We’re turning the lights back on. Help us keep them shining brightly.”

Sopa's supporters in the House of Representatives say the legislation is designed to stop revenue flowing to "rogue websites".

It would give content owners and the US government the power to request court orders to shut down sites associated with piracy.

It could also force US-based internet service providers, search engines, payment processors and advertising networks to stop doing business or offering links to foreign sites suspected of involvement with the illegal activity.

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