Yesterday, January 18, 2012, can be called the day the web went black, as thousands of websites went dark to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act, a bill that experts say would change the functionality of the Internet forever. SOPA is accompanied by the Protect IP Act (PIPA). According to SOPAstrike.com, over 75,000 websites across the web participated in the blackout yesterday, including big names such as Wikipedia, Google, Reddit, and Wired.
Here’s how some big names protested:
- Wikipedia blacked out all English-language pages for 24 hours and added a splash page with information on the bill and how to contact your representatives. According to the Wikimedia Foundation, over 162 million people viewed the splash page and at least 4 million people used the page to look up their Congressional representatives.
- Google protested the legislation by censoring the image on the home page and creating “End Piracy, Not Liberty,” an online petition that has at least 4.5 million signatures.
- Reddit protested by shutting down for 12 hours on January 18. During that time, visitors to the website found information about the legislation and how to take action.
For screenshots of what websites looked like during the blackout, take a look at the slideshow below.
How individuals can protest:
- BlackoutSOPA.org allows you to change your profile picture on social networks to protest the legislation. Choices include adding a “Stop SOPA” banner to your existing profile picture, covering the picture with “Stop SOPA,” or blacking out your profile picture completely. Over 80,000 people so far have used the site to change their profile picture.
- Paul Tassi at Forbes created an image for people to post on Facebook that would show what the Internet could look like if the bills pass.
- Mashable posted an article showing how to use Pinterest to protest SOPA. Protestors have created pinboards of black images, effectively blacking out the pinboard and bringing the blackout to the Pinterest feeds of your followers.
- People everywhere turned to Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks for information, to share their own opinions, and speak out. As usual with the internet, statements ranged from serious to hilarious.
But it doesn’t end there…
SOPA protests weren’t exclusively online. The New York tech community took to the streets of New York City. Approximately 1,500 people gathered at the offices of two Senators who support the bill, Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. One speaker was Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit.
So, how did it go?
- Twitter announced that more than 2.4 million tweets were sent between 12 a.m. and 4 p.m. yesterday that were related to SOPA. Several Trending Topics throughout the day were SOPA-related, and Mark Zuckerberg even took to Twitter for the first time in almost two years.
- Wikipedia experienced increased traffic, even with no English-language content available (without extra work)
- According to a Mashable article, the personal contact pages for several senators were not loading, probably due to all of the encouragement to contact your representatives on blackout pages.
- The blackout may have even changed the minds of a few members of Congress, who withdrew their support of the bill
What it looked like the day the web went dark