Congressional support for controversial online piracy legislation eroded dramatically on Wednesday in the face of an unprecedented online protest supported by tech titans such as Google, Wikipedia and Facebook.
Several key senators withdrew their support from the Senate's Protect IP Act (PIPA), including Tea Party favorite Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), an elected member of his party's leadership.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who leads the Senate GOP's campaign team, said the legislation should be put on hold, while Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a sponsor and the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, retreated from the bill. Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) also withdrew his sponsorship.
Thousands of websites went dark on Wednesday to protest the two Internet piracy bills, the House's Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Senate's PIPA. At least two California Democrats, Reps. Anna Eshoo and Zoe Lofgren, joined the protests by blacking out their websites.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), a leader of Senate conservatives, also came out against the bills, calling them "misguided bills that will cause more harm than good."
"When protecting intellectual property rights, we must not undermine free speech, threaten economic growth, or impose burdensome regulations," DeMint tweeted.
Opposition is also building in the House. Two of the original Republican co-sponsors of SOPA, Reps. Ben Quayle (Ariz.) and Lee Terry (Neb.), withdrew their support Tuesday before the protests began, and scores of other lawmakers took to Twitter Wednesday to affirm their opposition...
Hundreds of millions of Internet users, most of whom might have been unaware of the bills until Wednesday, are likely to have noticed the protests...
Wikipedia — the world's sixth most popular site, according to the Web firm Alexa — went a step further, shutting down its English-language site entirely. Visitors to Wikipedia are greeted with a minimalistic, dark page with the headline: "Imagine a world without free knowledge."