On Wednesday several major websites, including Wikipedia and Reddit, took their services offline in protest at the proposed SOPA bill.

For Wikipedia, the self-imposed blackout actually had the affect of increasing traffic as people logged on to see what the fuss was about.

In a nutshell, SOPA is an attempt to crackdown on internet piracy by shutting down sites that host copyrighted material.

Opponents say that it goes too far, as sites that link to other sites that host pirated material can also be shutdown, and threatens free speech.

SOPA was actually shelved by US Congress earlier this week, but a similar bill, PIPA, is still being debated.

Wikipedia, which labels SOPA/PIPA as "misguided solutions to a misunderstood problem", said that the “purpose of the blackout was twofold: to raise public awareness, and to encourage people to share their views with their elected representatives”.

It certainly achieved its first aim. The Wikipedia page about SOPA and PIPA was accessed more than 162m times on Wednesday, a 365% increase in the day before according to Zscaler Research.

Wikipedia said 8m people also used the site to look up their elected representative's contact information, with the result being that 70 members of Congress had joined the opposition to SOPA/PIPA by Thursday.

Obviously Wikipedia wasn’t solely responsible for changing the politicians’ minds, but it will certainly have contributed.

Wikipedia was one of the few sites to entirely shutdown access to its content (though its mobile site still worked), but others such as Google and Craiglist took part in the protest in one form or another.

Google blacked out its logo and collected 7m signatures on an online petition, while 30m people saw Mozilla’s anti-SOPA logo, generating 360,000 emails to Congress.

Many others sites, including Craigslist and Wired, presented users with an anti-SOPA landing page to show their opposition to the bill.

The campaign took another twist today when the US Government shutdown file sharing site Megaupload.

Authorities have charged its founders with copyright infringement and conspiracy to commit money laundering and racketeering, accusing them of taking more than $500m away from copyright holders.

In response, hacking group Anonymous has begun attacking websites connected to SOPA and the Megaupload case.

They have managed to take down a number of high-profile websites, including the Department of Justice, Universal, Warner Music Group and the Recording Industry Association of America.

This is obviously an issue that is going to run and run. The pro-SOPA lobbyists have spent million of dollars fighting their case and aren’t going to give up easily.

It may be that some form of legislation is required to prevent rampant internet piracy, but SOPA is seen as using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut.

It is doubtful whether there is enough common ground for a compromise to be found, so tit-for-tat attacks and internet blackouts may become a common occurrence for the foreseeable future.

The following infographic from Covario gives a brief look at who was affected by Wednesday’s blackout.

David Moth

Published 20 January, 2012 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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Comments (3)


Austin Hoffman

THEY DESERVE IT!! it's all BS...SOPA/PIPA were junk + MU arrest was unfair + I don't think swizz he has any legal connections to MU...imo it was all fabbed up to get other celebrity endorsements.

p.s. looks like someone is pissed - FBI vs ANONYMOUS video:

over 6 years ago


Rebecca Nixon, Brand Executive at The IT Job Board

If SOPA were enacted against Econsultancy, your site would be shut down in a moment, without due process, as you have posted and linked to copyrighted material, which I assume you did not recieve explicit permission from the owner before posting.

The owners would also be up for a possible 5-year stint in jail.

This is a very lukewarm article. Considering that the US have clearly demonstrated that they have no issue shutting down internationally hosted websites (MegaUpload) and arresting the owners whilst in another nation, I would be seriously reconsidering this coverage, and including more of the genuine threats this kind of legislation poses to not only Econsultancy, but all sites commenting on copyrighted material.

over 6 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Managing Editor at Barclaycard

Rebecca, thanks for your comment. There's been plenty of coverage elsewhere on the rights and wrongs of SOPA so the idea was to give a balanced account of the blackout/protests rather than weigh in on either side. Most of the staff at Econsultancy agree with your view against SOPA.

I should also say that we try to make sure we never use copyrighted images on the blog and attribute credit where it is due.

over 6 years ago

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