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.