While much of the Internet was “blacked out” Wednesday to voice opposition to a pair of bills which opponents say would amount to online censorship, activists promise the day of protest is “just the beginning” in the fight to defeat the controversial legislation.
Websites from Wikipedia to Google and others have joined in the protest, in which they have functionally or symbolically “gone dark” to raise awareness of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), and its Senate companion, the Protect IP Act (PIPA).
“The blacklist bills are dangerous: if made into law, they would hamper innovation, kill jobs, wreak havoc on Internet security, and undermine the free speech principles upon which our country was founded,” says the blog at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an organization opposed to the bills. “But deep-pocketed lobbyists are trying to ram this legislation through as quickly as possible, hoping elected officials will turn a blind eye to the widespread opposition to these bills. We can’t let that happen.”
The chief bipartisan opponents of the bill, including Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), say they are committed to fighting online piracy. However, they and others contend the current legislation is overly broad and could allow the federal government to shut down entire websites without recourse.
Issa used the Twitter website Wednesday to announce that conservative Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has dropped his support of PIPA. “Much more education for Members of Congress about the workings of the Internet is essential,” Issa reportedly says in a statement.
The widespread pressure against the bill appears to be working, as its chief sponsors in Congress say they will rewrite the legislation to remove the controversial Domain Name System (DNS) blocking provisions.
EFF says opponents also plan to urge lawmakers to defeat the legislation next week, once the Senate returns.
“We’re also gearing up for a day of action on January 23rd when the Senate will be back in session and getting ready to vote on the Protect-IP Act, SOPA’s sister bill,” the EFF blog says. “We’re calling on digital activists and Internet users everywhere to call Senators on the 24th and voice their opposition to this censorship legislation. Despite the chorus of opposition from human rights advocates and the tech community, Senators are still trying to push through this dangerous censorship bill. We need all hands on deck to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.