Google has dropped its logo shroud, Wikipedia has returned from limbo, normal service in general has been resumed, and all’s right with the world … except that SOPA and PIPA are still looming on Capitol Hill. So did yesterday’s blackout protests against these bills have an actual impact?
Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales certainly thinks they did. He’s taking a victory lap today, after blacking out the world’s fifth most trafficked website for 24 hours to raise awareness of the bills, offering a “thank you” message to supporters that claims over 162 million people saw Wikipedia’s anti-SOPA, anti-PIPA message.
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 defense of a free and open Internet.
On Wikipedia’s SOPA Initiative/Learn More page, the site notes that more than 12,000 people commented on the Wikimedia Foundation’s post announcing the blackout — “A breathtaking majority supported the blackout.” On Twitter, Wikipedia says the hashtag topic #wikipediablackout “at one point … constituted 1% of all tweets,” and that SOPA-related Twitter posts were popping off at a rate of a quarter-million every hour. And finally: Wikipedia says over 8 million visitors used the site’s zip code tool to look up their elected representatives.
All the traffic to congressional websites definitely had an impact: at one point Senator Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) tweeted “Anti- #PIPA, #SOPA traffic has temporarily shut down our website.” Other congressional websites were reportedly slow to load throughout the day or returned error messages for visitors.
And then, the political dominoes began to fall: Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) renounced his support for SOPA (he co-sponsored the bill) yesterday on Facebook, Senator Jim DeMint (R., S.C.) used Twitter to tell the world he now opposes the bill and Senator John Cornyn (R., Texas) told his Facebook followers, “Better to get this done right rather than fast and wrong.”
The New York Times reports “then trickle turned to flood,” noting that Senators Mark Kirk (R., Ill.), Roy Blunt (R., Mo.), Jeff Merkley (D., Ore.) and Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) as well as Representatives Lee Terry (R., Neb.) and Ben Quayle (R., Ariz.) announced their opposition to the bill. The Times adds that “at least 10 senators and nearly twice that many House members announced their opposition.” (If you want to keep up on who supports SOPA and who doesn’t, Pro Publica’s running a tracking page: “Where Do Your Members of Congress Stand on SOPA and PIPA?”)
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a PAC that claims more than 850,000 members, said that over 468 PCCC-member websites (small businesses, web programmers, etc.) were blacked out for the day, that nearly 210,000 people had signed the PCCC’s petition urging that Congress reject PIPA/SOPA, and that over 30,000 Craiglist members had used the PCCC’s site to contact Congress about SOPA/PIPA.
On the flip side, many were startled to find Wikipedia’s site unavailable yesterday and used Twitter to vent. Twitter account @Herpderpedia (warning, language) retweeted messages from users shocked or angry that they couldn’t access the online tome (directly, that is — its content was still available).
Where do opponents of the bills go next? Nonprofit anti-SOPA, anti-PIPA group Fight for the Future writes:
Approaching Monday’s crucial Senate vote there are now 35 Senators publicly opposing PIPA. Last week there were 5. And it just takes just 41 solid “no” votes to permanently stall PIPA (and SOPA) in the Senate. What seemed like miles away a few weeks ago is now within reach.
The group urges people to keep the pressure on congressional members by “calling your Senator every day next week” as well as visiting your Senators’ district offices.
Disclosure: Time Inc. parent company Time Warner supports SOPA legislation.