Back when we first covered SOPA Opera, the tool created by Dan Nguyen, the distribution of Congressional support and opposition for SOPA and PIPA painted a pretty grim picture. On January 6th, the tracking tool showed 81 members confirmed to support the measures and only 20 confirmed to oppose them.
By the time the SOPA Opera tool moved over to Pro Publica, the amount of opponents of the legislation had grown – but just a bit. The support was still overwhelming – at 80 to 31. TechCrunch captured this screenshot on January 18th (the day of the intern-wide SOPA Blackouts):
Then something big happened. The internet collectively freaked out over SOPA and PIPA for an entire day. You remember Wednesday, right? Wikipedia was blacked out and Google’s homepage logo was covered with a giant black censor bar. Tons of other sites went dark for the protest and internet users took to Twitter in droves.
And that protest appears to have visibly shifted Congressional support of SOPA / PIPA. Seriously, look for yourself:
Notice: It’s pretty much inverted. Support for SOPA in the House of Representatives has taken the biggest hit. As it currently stands, only 26 confirmed supporters of SOPA exist. There are now 100 confirmed opponents. Bill author Lamar Smith has said he plans on bringing SOPA back to the table in February, so it will be interesting to see what transpires in the House over the next few weeks.
In the Senate, it’s a bit of a different story. There have been some changes, but support still outweighs opposition 37 to 22. There have been some key defections in the past couple of days – most notably Senators Orrin Hatch and (bill cosponsor) Marco Rubio. The biggest news came just today as Senate Majority Harry Reid announced that he is postponing a procedural vote on PIPA “in light of recent events.”
There’s no telling how this move could shake up the Senate support of PIPA.
The pre-SOPA Blackout and post-SOPA Blackout visualizations are stunning. Even if you could make the argument that support for the legislation was already waning, Wednesday’s internet protests can at least be called a catalytic enzyme or something like that. Whether the protests were the direct force that swayed many members of Congress or they just happened at the perfect time, it’s hard to deny that they signal a turning point in the legislation.
It’s a positive sign that the internet community has Congress thinking about the legislation and wanting to make changes. Internet users must be vigilant – amended version of these bills will emerge for consideration again. Remember, “postpone” and “delay” don’t mean “kill.”