Though the Motion Picture Association of America called yesterday’s protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) an “irresponsible” publicity “stunt”, the numbers show a very different story. We brought you the news yesterday that 162 million people experienced the blackout of Wikipedia — with even more seeing blackouts on sites like Reddit and Google — and people across the country signed petitions and wrote to their congressional representatives in protest of the two bills that would irreparably harm free speech on the Internet. Over eight million people wrote to their Congresspeople with the help of Wikipedia and four and a half million people signed Google’s petition. Thousands, or even millions more, wrote and signed through other sites participating in the protest. CBS is reporting that 24 U.S. Senators have now come out against the bills. So we say to the dissenters, the politicians still behind SOPA and PIPA, and those with big pocketbooks attempting to lead congress: don’t mess with the Internet – it’s more powerful than you think.

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“We personally had around 2.5 million people see our banner yesterday – our success was shared with many others as well. Google had 4 million people sign their petition. Some people have mentioned that this has been the most successful single day petition in history,” Jacob Miller, of the SOPA Blackout website told Inhabitat. “Those results are far and above what many people were expecting for this. Overall, I’d call it a tremendous success. When was the last time you saw that many people pull support for a bill after one day of protest? It’s awe-inspiring.”

Opponents of SOPA and PIPA say that the bills are overreaching and draconian in their efforts to stop the sharing of copyrighted information on the web. The two bills are backed by the very wealthy and powerful Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry of America and threaten to shut down websites without due process if any copyrighted content is found on them — more on the specifics available here. Yesterday’s protest was led by a group of high-profile Internet pioneers including the founders and cofounders of Google, Reddit, Twitter, Wikipedia, the Huffington Post, Craigslist, Firefox, YouTube, eBay, PayPal and Flickr who conceived of the idea to band together large and small websites alike for a 24 hour protest of the legislation in which websites would either go dark or put up large protest banners — which is what Google did.

Jon Stewart chimed in yesterday in his regular comedic yet insightful manner by noting that many of the senators and representatives sponsoring the bills didn’t even really understand them. His montage of politicians noting they should “bring in the nerds” to explain the bill is quite a doozy and worth a watch. Stewart’s reply to their idea, “really? Nerds? You know I think the word you’re actually looking for is ‘experts,’ so your laws don’t backfire and break the internet.”

Wikipedia’s message this morning, after a roaring success on their part, is that the mission is not over. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg posted his first tweet in three years yesterday which read, “Tell your congressmen you want them to be pro-internet.” His statement continued in a personal message on Facebook, “We can’t let poorly thought out laws get in the way of the internet’s development. Facebook opposes Sopa and Pipa, and we will continue to oppose any laws that will hurt the internet.” The White House even chimed in — the President does not support the bills — and applauded the protest for being successful on the official White House Website.

The protest is being praised for being the first of its kind to show the world that the Internet has as much power as traditional lobbying does. The protest is being heralded as the “coming of age” of the Internet and though we like to think that online publishers have been sophisticated for a while, yesterday’s incredible show of force was the first time that we banded together to fight for the rights of the freedom of information against those that would like to stop us.

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