January 20, 2022

With Blackouts and Twitter, Web Flexes Its Muscle

Some sites blacked out — among them, the English-language Wikipedia, though it was possible to access the encyclopedia through several clever workarounds — while others, including Google and Craigslist, draped their pages with information about the bills, or restricted access.

Many start-ups quickly cobbled together tech solutions to support their cause. HelloFax, for example, created a tool that let people send their representatives faxes voicing their opinions through the Web.

The effort was an unusual orchestration that began gathering steam online late Tuesday night and escalated early Wednesday morning, eventually whipping the Web into a frenzy.

Google said 4.5 million people signed its online petition to Congress, voicing displeasure at the legislation; Twitter said more than two million posts on the subject flowed through the site by early afternoon, nearly four times as many as usual.

Engine Advocacy, a service that helps people call their local members of Congress, said on Twitter that it was averaging roughly 2,000 calls per second, while Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit organization that oversees Wikipedia, said four million people used its blacked-out site to look up contact information for their local representative.

Opponents of the legislation also took their demonstrations into the real world in New York, San Francisco and Seattle, but drew relatively modest numbers of protesters. Still, for a group that tends to be more comfortable showing solidarity from behind the warm glow of a computer screen — by changing a profile picture or reposting a favorite motto — it was a considerable showing.

The New York rally, organized by a tech industry trade group, attracted about a thousand protesters in Midtown Manhattan.. Sebastian Delmont, 38, who works at StreetEasy, a real estate search site, said about half of his co-workers attended the protest. “Our worry is that they are building something like a Great Firewall, like in China and the Middle East,” he said.

In Washington by Wednesday morning, several lawmakers had reconsidered their support of the bills — one in the House, one in the Senate. The legislation is intended to curtail copyright abuses by preventing American search engines and Web sites from directing users to the mostly foreign sites that allow for the distribution of stolen materials like music, movies, television shows, software and other content.

The tech industry has argued that the bills are too broad, threaten free speech, stifle innovation and most likely will not even effectively eliminate piracy.

A freshman senator, Marco Rubio of Florida, a rising Republican star, announced that he would no longer back the Senate bill, the Protect Intellectual Property Act, or PIPA, which he had co-sponsored. Senator John Cornyn, the Texas Republican who heads the campaign operation for his party, urged Congress take more time to study the measure.

“Concerns about unintended damage to the Internet and innovation in the tech sector require a more thoughtful balance, which will take more time,” he posted on his Facebook page at 9 a.m.

Supporters of the bills, like major media and entertainment companies, struggled to get their message out, but found the going rough. “It’s very difficult to counter the misinformation when the disseminators also own the platform,” said Cary H. Sherman, chairman and chief executive of the Recording Industry Association of America, a trade group that represents the United States music industry, referring to Google and Facebook.

Mike Nugent, executive director of Creative America, a coalition of major entertainment companies and industry unions, said he was taking the long view on the issue and not focusing on the Internet protests this week. “We’re digging in for a tough fight over the next week and in the longer term,” he said.

On Wednesday, the corporate group began its second nationwide advertising campaign in print, radio and television to push the legislation. A banner ad with the headline “What to Do During an Internet Blackout” appeared on select Web sites and on a Times Square billboard. Suggestions included: “Read a book. Listen to music. Go to a movie. Watch the game. Tune into a show” — all copyrighted content the legislation intends to protect.

Brian Chen, Amy Chozick and Jonathan Weisman contributed reporting.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=2366308edb187818e070437405c94fc0