CISPA blackout fails to match 2012's SOPA/PIPA protest levels

Monday's CISPA blackout is limited to just a few sites and lacks the far-reaching impact of last year's SOPA/PIPA protests.

April 22, 2013: the day the Internet at large took a look at the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) and yawned.

At least, it's hard to avoid that impression when you compare today's CISPA blackout with last year's SOPA/PIPA-stopping juggernaut.

2012's SOPA/PIPA protest helped put the final nail in a bill the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said would "hamper innovation, kill jobs, wreak havoc on Internet security, and undermine free speech." That bill was opposed by a number of large tech companies, including Wikipedia, Google, Reddit, and Mozilla. Users abandoned GoDaddy en masse as retaliation for the service's once-support for SOPA.

When SOPA and PIPA died, the Internet patted itself on its collective back. "Good job, Internet." Were the congratulations earned? Who can really say? Regardless, the numbers taking part in the protest were staggering. The Wikimedia Foundation's blacked-out landing page for the event was accessed more than 162 million times alone.

So you'd expect a similar response to CISPA, a bill the EFF says "is written so broadly that it allows companies to hand over large swaths of personal information to the government with no judicial oversight--effectively creating a 'cybersecurity' loophole in all existing privacy laws."

The EFF even says "Hundreds of thousands of Internet users spoke out against [CISPA], and their numbers will only grow as we move this debate to the Senate."

But the Internet is quiet today. Take a look at these pictures of last year's protests versus today's:

Who participated today

There are over 800 websites taking part in today's protest, but very few with the critical mass of a Wikipedia or Reddit. Even Mozilla, which has publicly opposed CISPA, isn't participating in today's protest.

Many tech companies have lent support to the bill, including IBM and Intel, perhaps preventing any unified opposition from coalescing.

Another factor undoubtedly contributing to today's lackluster protest is the last-minute nature of this event. Anonymous first called for an Internet-wide CISPA protest on Saturday--too late for most major sites to react and plan something for Monday.

Reddit's users are protesting CISPA on a subreddit-by-subreddit basis, but nothing as unified as last year. Erik Martin, Reddit's general manager, said, "As always users are leading the way for us. They are experimenting with various ways to protest CISPA and there will likely be things we can learn from and utilize on the site," implying the site as a whole might be organizing a broader opposition in the future, but that won't help today's CISPA protest seem any more coherent.

For now, however, it looks like those who oppose CISPA will have to hope it either dies in the Senate (like SOPA) or--failing that--President Obama keeps his promise and vetoes the bill.

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