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SOPA and PIPA Bills, Meet Angry Internet

(This picture of a computer screen taken in Hong Kong on January 18, 2012 shows homepages of the Wikipedia website. Wikipedia went dark, Google blotted out its logo and other popular websites planned protests on 18 January 2012 to voice concern over legislation in the US Congress intended to crack down on online piracy.)

Photo by PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Who holds more power: media lobbyists, or Internet heavyweights? After today we may know the answer.

High traffic websites including the English language version of Wikipedia, Craig’s List, Reddit and others have blacked out to protest two anti-piracy bills moving through Congress that they say threaten freedom and innovation on the Web. Even Google black-barred it’s logo on the company’s search page, which, when clicked on, takes you to a petition to sign against the bills, informally called SOPA and PIPA.

Some sites can still be accessed by changing browser settings or through redirects. But the online protest will likely reach the eyes of hundreds of millions of users, reflecting an unprecedented unified push by online companies that worry the legislation will give media organizations too much power to shut them down for copyright infringement.

The online actions have already created a fair amount of confusion and anger on the web, from people wondering why “Wikipedia is against soap,” to the creation of a popular hashtag: #thingsbetterthanSOPA.

Legislation supporters have called the day’s actions merely a publicity stunt. Then again, publicity impacts policy every day. Just ask the Internet.