Wikipedia is back, Google has taken off its blindfold and US Representatives have danced, shuffled and snuck across the aisles as the whip counts waver, leaving the future of SOPA and PIPA uncertain. After online protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act saw multiple sites post call-to-arms messages or black-out altogether, at least seven senators have jumped ship from supporting the proposed legislation. Yet Wikipedia – and others – highlight the fight isn’t over; “we’re not done yet” the online encyclopedia ominously warned today.
By many counts, the blackout was a huge success. Google gathered 4.5m signatures on its anti-SOPA/PIPA petition, the LA Times reports, after the search engine added a “Tell Congress: Please don’t censor the web!” message to its normally minimalist homepage. Meanwhile, More than 162m people saw Wikipedia’s English-language blackout page, the site says, and 8m went on to search for their elected representatives’ contact info in its address tool.
As for lawmakers, representatives in both the House and the Senate made changes to their stance on the two acts. OpenCongress (itself up and down this morning, but Google’s cache works) reports eighteen in the Senate now oppose the act, of which seven were previously co-sponsors.
Reasons varied somewhat, but many spoke of changing their determination for SOPA and PIPA after hearing the scale of the antipathy toward them. “I’m pulling my support because your concerns deserve consideration before Congress moves forward” New Hampshire Republican Kelly Hyotte tweeted, while Missouri Republican Roy Blunt took to Facebook to describe PIPA as “legislation that is deeply flawed and still needs much work” which “is why I’m withdrawing my co-sponsorship for the Protect IP Act.”
Nonetheless, a vote on PIPA is expected to be held on January 24, while SOPA will be pushed forward in February, according to sponsor Lamar Smith. The risk is high that minor tweaks will be made that appear to remove particularly contentious points, but in fact merely whitewash the issues. “We expect changes that appear to tone down the damaging effects of the laws,” Wikipedia warns, “without addressing their fundamental flaws.”
As we wrote yesterday, there’s more information on on SOPA/PIPA in our plain English guide to the proposed acts, while details as to how you can contact your US Representative – or simply make your voice heard if you’re outside the US – at sopastrike.com/strike. More information can be found at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.