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TWiki.org Blackout to Fight Internet Censorship a Success

2012-01-19 - 07:46:45 by PeterThoeny in General
On Tuesday I was asked if TWiki.org was going to participate in today's blackout campaign to protest against SOPA and PIPA, the legislation to combat piracy currently in discussion in Washington DC. I first intended to just add a yellow box on the homepage asking to contact a representative to oppose these legislative bills, because they would censor the Internet and stifle innovation.

There is a lot of coverage on the issue. I found these two most striking:

1. TED talk by Clay Shirky: Defend our freedom to share (or why SOPA is a bad idea): http://bit.ly/w9s7D5 - this is the best articulation I have seen so far why it is important to keep the internet open:

2. Tim O'Reilly blog: SOPA and PIPA are bad industrial policy: http://oreil.ly/yRhkFE - Tim takes the perspective of the market and competition.

Today Wednesday, 2012-01-18 (coincidentally my birthday) is a big day where thousands of website went on strike and either completely blacked out their website, or made them partially inaccessible. The biggest site that had a complete blackout was the English Wikipedia, which went black for 24 hours from midnight to midnight US Eastern time after debating it with the Wikipedia community.

Wikipedia blackout - click to enlarge

Based on a casual observation on Facebook and Twitter, probably the biggest impact made Google: Even though they only blacked out their logo with a link pointing to a page to take action, they collected 4.5 million anti-SOPA signatures today.

Google blackout - click to enlarge

With TWiki.org community support I decided to completely blackout all 118,000 TWiki.org pages for 24 hours. We went on strike on 01:00am US Eastern time for 24 hours. In that period we had over 50,000 page views, with each page containing a message asking to contact Congress:

TWiki blackout - click to enlarge

Here is the message to the member of Congress:

I am writing to you as a voter in your district. I urge you to vote "no" on cloture for S. 968, the PROTECT IP Act, on Jan. 24th. The PROTECT IP Act is dangerous, ineffective, and short-sighted. It does not deserve floor consideration. I urge my representative to vote "no" on SOPA, the corresponding House bill.

Over coming days you'll be hearing from the many businesses, advocacy organizations, and ordinary Americans who oppose this legislation because of the myriad ways in which it will stifle free speech and innovation. We hope you'll take our concerns to heart and oppose this legislation by voting "no" on cloture.

As a result of the coordinated protest against these bills by thousands of websites today, USA Today reported that several senators backed down from supporting the bills. Success, at least for now!

Thanks all for all the support you gave to keep the Internet open!


I got this e-mail from the "Fight for the Future team", which coordinated the blackout day, http://sopastrike.com/strike :

Today was nuts, right?

Google launched a petition. Wikipedia voted to shut itself off. Senators' websites went down just from the sheer surge of voters trying to write them. NYC and SF geeks had protests that packed city blocks.

You made history today: nothing like this has ever happened before. Tech companies and users teamed up. Tens of millions of people who make the internet what it is joined together to defend their freedoms. The free network defended itself. Whatever you call it, the bottom line is clear: from today forward, it will be much harder to mess up the internet.

The really crazy part? We might even win.

Approaching Monday's crucial Senate vote there are now 35 Senators publicly opposing PIPA. Last week there were 5. And it just takes just 41 solid "no" votes to permanently stall PIPA (and SOPA) in the Senate. What seemed like miles away a few weeks ago is now within reach.

But don't trust predictions. The forces behind SOPA & PIPA (mostly movie companies) can make small changes to these bills until they know they have the votes to pass. Members of Congress know SOPA & PIPA are unpopular, but they don't understand why--so they're easily duped by superficial changes. The Senate returns next week, and the next few days are critical. Here are two things to think about:

1. Plan on calling your Senator every day next week. Pick up the phone each morning and call your Senators' offices, until they vote "no" on cloture. If your site participated today, consider running a "Call the Senate" link all next week.

2. Tomorrow, drop in at your Senators' district offices. We don't have a cool map widget to show you the offices nearest you (we're too exhausted! any takers?). So do it the old fashioned way: use Google, or the phonebook to find the address, and just walk in, say you oppose PIPA, and urge the Senator to vote "no" on cloture. These drop-in visits make our spectacular online protests more tangible and credible.

That's it for now. Be proud and stay on it!

--Holmes, Tiffiniy, and the whole Fight for the Future team.

P.S. Huge credit goes to participants in the 11/16 American Censorship Day protest: Mozilla, 4chan, BoingBoing, Tumblr, TGWTG, and thousands of others. That's what got this ball rolling! Reddit, both the community and the team behind it, you're amazing. And of course, thanks to the Wikimedians whose patient and inexorable pursuit of the right answer brought them to take world-changing action. Thanks to David S, David K, Cory D, and E Stark for bold action at critical times.

P.P.S. If you haven't already, show this video to as many people as you can. It works! http://fightforthefuture.org/pipa/

-- Peter Thoeny - 2012-01-19

The Wikipedia blackout was a success according to the Wikipedia post-mortem at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:SOPA_initiative/Learn_more:

  • The Wikipedia page about SOPA and PIPA was accessed more than 162 million times during the 24 hour period.
  • More than 12,000 people commented on the Wikimedia Foundation's blog post announcing the blackout. A breathtaking majority supported the blackout.
  • More than eight million looked up their elected representatives' contact information via the Wikipedia tool.

-- Peter Thoeny - 2012-01-20

TechCrunch reports: SOPA Protests Sway Congress: 31 Opponents Yesterday, 122 Now:

Yesterday the internet cried out in protest of SOPA-PIPA, and congress heard us loud and clear. At the beginning of Janaury 18th, there were 80 members of congress who supported the legislation, and 31 opponents. Now, just 63 support SOPA-PIPA, and opposition has surged to 122, according to ProPublica.

Here are ProPublica’s SOPA support and opposition breakdowns as of 5:15 pm PST, January 19th.

  • Total: 63 supporters, 122 opponents
  • Senate: 37 supporters, 22 opponents
  • House: 26 supporters, 100 opponents
  • Democrats (across the Senate and House): 40 supporters, 55 opponents
  • Republicans (across the Senate and House): 22 supporters, 67 opponents

-- Peter Thoeny - 2012-01-20

Today I got this e-mail from the "Fight for the Future team", which coordinated the blackout day:

Hi everyone!

A big hurrah to you!!!!! We’ve won for now -- SOPA and PIPA were dropped by Congress today -- the votes we’ve been scrambling to mobilize against have been cancelled.

The largest online protest in history has fundamentally changed the game. You were heard.

On January 18th, 13 million of us took the time to tell Congress to protect free speech rights on the internet. Hundreds of millions, maybe a billion, people all around the world saw what we did on Wednesday. See the amazing numbers here and tell everyone what you did.

This was unprecedented. Your activism may have changed the way people fight for the public interest and basic rights forever.

The MPAA (the lobby for big movie studios which created these terrible bills) was shocked and seemingly humbled. "'This was a whole new different game all of a sudden,' MPAA Chairman and former Senator Chris Dodd told the New York Times. '[PIPA and SOPA were] considered by many to be a slam dunk.'"

"'This is altogether a new effect,' Mr. Dodd said, comparing the online movement to the Arab Spring. He could not remember seeing 'an effort that was moving with this degree of support change this dramatically' in the last four decades, he added."

Tweet with us, shout on the internet with us, let's celebrate: Round of applause to the 13 million people who stood up - #PIPA and #SOPA are tabled 4 now. #13millionapplause

We're indebted to everyone who helped in the beginning of this movement -- you, and all the sites that went out on a limb to protest in November -- Boing Boing and Mozilla Foundation (and thank you Tumblr, 4chan)! And the grassroots groups -- Public Knowledge, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Demand Progress, CDT, and many more.

#SOPA and #PIPA will likely return in some form. But when they do, we'll be ready. Can you make a donation to Fight for the Future, to help us keep this fire going?


We changed the game this fall, and we're not gonna stop. $8, $20, every little bit helps.

13 million strong,

Tiffiniy, Holmes, Joshua, Phil, CJ, Donny, Douglas, Nicholas, Dean, David S. and Moore... Fight for the Future!

-- Peter Thoeny - 2012-01-20

On blackout day, TWiki downloads fell from average 150/weekday to 50/day (which is the average for weekends). Here is the TWiki download graph at Sourceforge.net for this week:

SOPA blackout TWiki downloads

IMHO, this little collateral damage is worth every virtual cent!

-- Peter Thoeny - 2012-01-21


Topic revision: r1 - 2012-01-19 - PeterThoeny

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