Lawmakers begin withdrawing support of SOPA, PIPA after blackout - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Lawmakers withdraw support of SOPA, PIPA after blackout

Wikipedia went offline at midnight Wednesday, starting its 24-hour demonstration against SOPA and PIPA. (Source: Wikipedia went offline at midnight Wednesday, starting its 24-hour demonstration against SOPA and PIPA. (Source:
The site gives other websites a way to join in on the blackout. (Source: The site gives other websites a way to join in on the blackout. (Source:

(RNN) - In response to massive online protests, the New York Times reported at least 10 Senators and 20 members of the House withdrew their support of two controversial bills aimed at curbing online piracy, which critics called a widespread attempt at censorship.

Ironically, most of them chose to do so through their Facebook and Twitter pages.

Even a co-sponsor of the Senate bill, Marco Rubio (R-FL), withdrew his support.

Several major websites fired the "nuclear option" in the battle over internet freedom Wednesday, each going dark in protest of the two bills, SOPA in the house and PIPA in the senate.

Even websites that didn't go dark, such as Google, made sure to let users know that they opposed the bills. The web giant blacked out its logo and directed people to a short summary of the legislation and a petition to fill out.

In less than 24 hours, a Google spokesperson confirmed to The Los Angeles Times that the petition had received 4.5 million signatures.

Jimmy Wales, co-founder and promoter of Wikipedia, the popular online encyclopedia, switched off his site at midnight, beginning a 24-hour demonstration.

Wales posted a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. on his Twitter account Monday to announce Wikipedia's intentions:

"'Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed..." it read.

"On Wednesday, Wikipedia demands."

The congressional act, known as SOPA, or Stop Online Piracy Act, would empower federal law enforcement agencies to shut down sites that illegally post and sometimes sell intellectual property from the U.S.

[Click here to read a copy of SOPA, which was introduced in the House by Texas Rep. Lamar Smith.]

The Senate counterpart, the Protect IP Act, or PIPA, would empower courts to impel internet service providers to block access to certain foreign sites, in essence, censoring them.

[Click here to read a copy of PIPA.]

Wednesday was not the first time Wikipedia has played the blackout card. In October, the website successfully warded off the Italian parliament, which was considering a similar measure, by shutting down the Italian branch of the web-based encyclopedia.

This time, however, a handful of other, widely-used websites, including reddit and the blog Boing Boing, flipped the off switch along with Wikipedia.

SOPA and PIPA spark outrage within the internet community.

Tech giants Google, Yahoo, Amazon, Ebay and Wikipedia joined forces as the Net Coalition, a trade association founded, in part, to stop passage of the bills.

Opposition to SOPA and PIPA strengthened into the New Year when the idea of a blackout surfaced.

"An 'internet blackout' would obviously be both drastic and unprecedented," Markham Erickson, head of the NetCoalition, said in a statement.

Erickson further encouraged the Senate to cancel its scheduled vote on PIPA so the NetCoalition could resume addressing concerns raised by the Motion Picture Association of America and other groups "without threatening our nation's security or future innovation and jobs."

Both bills are beginning to crack under pressure.

The White House came out against the legislation Saturday when it released a statement in response to two petitions it had received about the legislative approach to combat online piracy.

"While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet," the White House said.

Following the White House comments, SOPA's sponsor, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-TX, agreed to remove part of the bill that would allow sites to be deleted from the internet's domain name system.

PIPA has also faced dwindling support in recent weeks, as six GOP senators and the bill's co-sponsor asked for a voting delay to further research the possible results of the bill.

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