On Wednesday, January 18th, millions of pages across the web went dark in protest of SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) in the House of Representatives and PIPA (the Protect IP Act) in the Senate. Wikipedia was a leader in the charge, beginning a total blackout of their English-language site at 9 p.m. on the 17th and continuing for 24 hours. Google also participated, though it took a more modest approach. Google’s logo was replaced with a black bar which linked to a page called EndPiracy, NotLiberty, where people had the option of signing a petition to Congress.
Had it passed, SOPA would have allowed the U.S. Department of Justice or copyright holders to have websites which had been accused of committing copyright infringement shut down, virtually without due process. The target of these bills was, of course, sites devoted to distributing pirated content like movies and music, but the bill was written in such a way that sites with user-generated content like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook could have been shut down.
The bill was shelved indefinitely, however. The online protests, as well as countless letters to congressmen from their constituents, caused several congressmen to change their votes to oppose the bill. It has been put on hold until sufficient revisions can be made to let it pass through Congress.