Blackout Strike: Anonymous Calls for Street Protests; Lawmakers Drop Support of SOPA and PIPA

Wikipedia. Reddit. WordPress. Wired magazine. All of these sites and thousands of others are participating in a one-day blackout to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) bills proposed in Congress.

Browser super power Google is operating, but its logo is blacked out. If you visit the nonpartisan legislation tracker today, the only bills you can read about are SOPA and PIPA.

Truthout considered joining the protest and blacking out today, but we decided to bring breaking news and information on the blackout instead.

The decentralized hacktivist network Anonymous has issued a press release calling for physical street protest against the bills, recommending that protesters converge at freeways, malls, libraries and schools. “IF YOUR GOVERNMENT SHUTS DOWN THE INTERNET … SHUT DOWN THE GOVERNMENT,” the release declares.

Anonymous normally uses hacking and DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks to shut down sites as a form of protest, but now the collective wants people in the streets:

“What will a Distributed Denial of Service attack do? What's website defacement against the corrupted powers of the government? No. This is a call for a worldwide Internet and physical protest against the powers that be.”

The Internet has not crumbled as a result of the blackout strike, but support for both bills in Congress has.

Some members of Congress want to take more time to consider the bills and add amendments, while others are flat out withdrawing their support.

Freshman Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), an original co-sponsor of the PIPA, announced on Facebook today that he is withdrawing his support because of “legitimate concerns” about potential impacts on access to the Internet and the broadening of government power.

Reps. Lee Terry (R-Nebraska) and Ben Quayle (R-Arizona) dropped their sponsorship of SOPA today and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) withdrew his support of PIPA.

These withdrawals of support still leave 76 supporters of the bills on the House and Senate and only 31 dedicated opponents, according to a list compiled by ProPublica.

Erik Martin, general manager of, one of the first major web sites to announce it would blackout, said there is still a “very long fight” ahead.

“We are encouraged, but we're not letting our guard down,” Martin said.

SOPA was tabled in the House after President Obama said he would not support the bill, but the Senate is expected to consider PIPA next week.

Martin said the bills supporters have accused opponents of failing to read the actual legislation and spreading misinformation, but one of Reddit's top engineers picked through the bills and the Reddit community determined they were a threat worth protesting against.

Both bills would allow the Justice Department to take down sites deemed to be “dedicated to infringing activities” and both the Justice Department and copyright owners would be allowed to sue alleged infringers. The bills also allow the Justice Department to demand that search engines and service providers remove links and block access to targeted sites.

Proponents say the bills would curb online pirating of copyrighted material. Opponents say the bills would give the government dangerous censorship power and allow big media firms to target smaller competitors with government lawsuits, and it turns out the entertainment industry is a big supporter of the legislation.

Comcast, Viacom, NBC Universal and industry groups like the Recording Industry Association of America have all joined the US Chamber of Commerce in supporting SOPA. Together, these groups have contributed more than $3.9 million to top members of Congress.