SOPA and PIPA Reaction - The Day the Web Went Black

While SOPA (StopOnline Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) are not new topics, much of the general public was newly introduced to these terms Wednesday, January 18th 2012, as thousands of websites took a stand against the proposed legislation.

SOPA / PIPA Overview

At a high level SOPA and PIPA are proposed legislation, in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate respectively, that would require search engines, advertisers, ISPs and other internet entities to regulate content and be responsible to remove allegedly infringing content. In theory, the ideas behind both bills are important and are recognized by many to be necessary in the fight against piracy, but the current versions are very broad.

CNN has a great article, SOPA Explained: What it is and Why it Matters, while Marketing Land shares, What All Marketers Need To Know About SOPA - The Stop Online Piracy Act. In addition to the above articles, and, created videos to help illustrate the bills in more detail and what could happen if the current versions are passed into law.

Online Protest

Wednesday, many major sites went dark to protest the anti-piracy bills and get the attention of the public, showing what could happen to some of the web’s favorite sites, if these bills are passed. Google blacked out their logo and linked to an information page that encouraged users to sign a petition.

Other sites like Wikipedia, Craigslist, Wordpress, Flickr, and took similar stands and provided information on how to contact your local congressman or woman. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter were flooded with the SOPA/PIPA related posts and were likely large contributing factors to the widespread movement that took place Wednesday.

Although Facebook didn’t join other web giants and go dark, Mark Zuckerberg, posted a status about SOPA and linked it to the page that explains Facebook’s stance.  In addition, Facebook also joined other internet companies earlier this month in backing an alternative to SOPA, the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN).

Was the Protest a Success?

SOPA and PIPA related searches trended very high on Google all day. Below is the list of the top 20 trending searches from Wednesday, January 18th, and 6 of the top 20 relate to online piracy. If users did not immediately sign the petitions, at the very least, it sparked some interest to educate them about the proposed legislation. Google says more than 7 million people signed the anti-SOPA petition, while Twitter reported 2.4+ million SOPA-related Tweets in a 4 hour span. More than 162 million people saw the Wikipedia blackout page. It’s evident that the protest had a positive influence on the online and social media communities, but did the ‘decision makers’ get the message?

According to an email from to its supporters, Wednesday's actions made an impact.  

"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.”

For a summary on where various representatives stand on the two bills, ProPublica has put together a page to easily keep track.  The next Senate vote for PIPA is scheduled for January 24th and while many things can change in the next couple of days, it seems that Wednesday’s message had some initial effects in Washington. 

POSTSCRIPT:  This morning Senate announced to postpone the scheduled  vote on PIPA.  No official date has been annoucned.