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In what could well be the biggest protest in the history of the Internet, a number of series of coordinated dissent was staged across the World Wide Web on January 18, 2012, against two proposed laws in the US Congress. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) were formally protested by a number of websites based on concerns that these acts, if passed as laws, would greatly damage the freedom of speech on the Internet in various websites and online communities. The bills had been initiated as a measure or response intended to check copyright infringement with websites or servers stationed outside the US. The bills would not have protected user-generated content and would have held websites responsible for the user's interactions, protestors said.

Protests took a climactic turn when on January 18, websites such as the English Wikipedia and Reddit shut down their content for a day and displayed messages that directed users to join the protests opposing the intended legislation. Some of the other important websites which displayed tickers and banners opposing the acts include Google, Mozilla, and Flickr. Over 115,000 such websites joined the protests. Physical demonstrations in major cities of the US such as New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington DC accompanied the protests.

Public support for the protests was unprecedented in magnitude. On January 18 over 8 million people are believed to have contacted their representative on Wikipedia. Apart from this, the US Congress received over 3 million emails and 1 million messages through the Electronic Frontier Foundation, from people opposing the bills. A petition at Google collected over 4.5 million signatures. US lawmakers claimed to have been contacted by about 10 million voters to mark the protest. The micro-blogging site Twitter recorded 2.4 million tweets mentioning the SOPA.

By end-January most politicians who had previously supported the bills withdrew their endorsement. On January 20, 2012, the bills were removed from further voting and sent for review. The New York Times claimed that the bills had been "shelved". The protests also drew a fair share of criticism and those who supported the bill believe that they have been postponed but are far from dead.
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Last Updated on: October 1st, 2021