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On January 18, 2012, a series of coordinated protests occurred against two proposed laws in the United States Congress—the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). These followed smaller protests in late 2011. Protests were based on concerns that the bills, intended to provide more robust responses to copyright infringement (also known as piracy) arising outside the United States, contained measures that could possibly infringe online freedom of speech, websites, and Internet communities. Protesters also argued that there were insufficient safeguards in place to protect sites based upon user-generated content.
|Protests against SOPA and PIPA
|Part of Internet censorship in the United States
|January 18, 2012
Online and in various locales
|Defeat of SOPA and PIPA legislation
|Online protests, Protests
Notable websites and groups protesting:
The move to a formal protest was initiated when Fight for the Future organized thousands of the most popular websites in the world, including the English Wikipedia, to temporarily close or interrupt their content and redirect users to a message opposing the proposed legislation. Websites such as Google, Reddit, Mozilla, and Flickr soon featured protests against the acts. Some shut down completely, while others kept some or all of their content accessible. According to Fight for the Future, more than 115,000 websites joined the Internet protest. In addition to the online protests, there were simultaneous physical demonstrations in several U.S. cities, including New York City, San Francisco and Seattle, and separately during December 2011 a mass boycott of then-supporter GoDaddy. The protests were reported globally.
The January protest, initially planned to coincide with the first SOPA hearing of the year, drew publicity and reaction. Days prior to the action, the White House issued a statement that it would "not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet." On January 18, 2012, itself, more than 8 million people looked up their representative on Wikipedia, 3 million people emailed Congress to express opposition to the bills, more than 1 million messages were sent to Congress through the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a petition at Google recorded over 4.5 million signatures, Twitter recorded at least 2.4 million SOPA-related tweets, and lawmakers collected "more than 14 million names—more than 10 million of them voters—who contacted them to protest" the bills.
During and after the January protest, a number of politicians who had previously supported the bills expressed concerns with the proposals in their existing form, while others withdrew their support entirely. Internationally, "scathing" criticism of the bills was voiced from World Wide Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, as well as the European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda. Some observers were critical of the tactics used; the Boston Herald described the service withdrawals as evidence of "how very powerful these cyber-bullies can be." Motion Picture Association of America Chairman Chris Dodd stated that the coordinated shutdown was "an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today." Others such as The New York Times saw the protests as "a political coming of age for the tech industry."
By January 20, 2012, the political environment regarding both bills had shifted significantly. The bills were removed from further voting, ostensibly to be revised to take into consideration the issues raised, but according to The New York Times, it was probably "shelved" following a "flight away from the bill". Opposers noted the bills had been "indefinitely postponed" but cautioned they were "not dead" and "[would] return."
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