Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Staggering Numbers of the SOPA and PIPA Blackouts

In the aftermath of the SOPA and PIPA legislation postponement, it is hard to overstate the impact of the January 18th protest blackout. In possibly the biggest protest ever, a staggering 115,000 websites blacked out logos, web pages, or even every page on their site to show what the web would be like after SOPA and PIPA1. Amongst these sites were giants such as Google, Twitter, reddit, etc. with Wikipedia taking it to the extreme by blacking out every page and replacing them with links to contact Senators.

The protest was amazingly effective with the original 80 supporters and 31 opponents before the protest turning into 65 supporters and 101 opponents the following day2. With this massive shift in support, the supporters of the bills had no choice but to postpone the bill a mere three days following the protest3.

However, what is truly mind-boggling is not just the effectiveness of the protest, but the sheer reach of the protest and the heavy tails of the web. 2.4 million tweets were sent in protest in just 16 hours, 4.5 million people signed a Google petition against SOPA and PIPA, 14 million people contacted lawmakers protesting the bill, and a staggering 160 million people, more than half the population of the United States, saw the blackout on Wikipedia with 8 million of them contacting their representatives4 5.

The fact that just a few websites can have such influence by reaching out to the tens of millions of concerned people is a true testament to the connectedness of the web.

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