Jan. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Google Inc. said today it collected more than 7 million signatures from the U.S. for its online petition to Congress during an Internet protest against anti- piracy legislation backed by Hollywood.
Visitors to Google, the world’s most popular search engine, were greeted yesterday by a black box covering the company’s familiar icon, and a message that read “Tell Congress: Please don’t censor the Web!” The message linked to a page outlining Google’s opposition and an option to join a petition urging Congress to reject the legislation.
Internet companies say the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House and the Protect IP Act in the Senate would promote online censorship, disrupt the Web’s architecture and harm their ability to innovate. The movie and music industries and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business-lobbying group, back the legislation as a means to fight piracy by websites that operate outside the U.S.
Websites are upending traditional lobbying in Washington, with the day of protest leading 13 lawmakers who co-sponsored the legislation to begin withdrawing support for the bills. By comparison, it took Wisconsin voters seeking a recall election of Republican Governor Scott Walker about two months to collect 1.9 million signatures.
Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that shut the English language version of its website for 24 hours to protest the bills, said more than 162 million people saw the blackout page posted yesterday. More than 8 million U.S. readers looked up their elected representatives through the blackout page to protest the measures, the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation Inc., which runs the Wikipedia site, said in a statement today.
Lawmakers Pull Support
Google thanked people in a post on its Google+ social network for signing its petition, saying the bills “would censor the web and impose burdensome regulations on American businesses.” Samantha Smith, a Google spokeswoman, didn’t immediately respond to a question about whether Google had verified the names of those signing the petition.
Thirteen U.S. lawmakers who co-sponsored the anti-piracy legislation, eight in the Senate and five House members, began withdrawing their support for the measures. The Senate has a procedural vote scheduled for Jan. 24 on proceeding with its bill, the Protect IP Act.
Co-sponsors who say they can no longer support the Senate legislation as written include Republicans Marco Rubio of Florida, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Orrin Hatch of Utah, John Boozman of Arkansas, David Vitter of Louisiana, and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire as well as Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement yesterday he couldn’t support the bill moving forward next week.
Republican Representatives Ben Quayle of Arizona, Lee Terry of Nebraska, Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Dennis Ross of Florida and Democratic Representative Tim Holden of Pennsylvania said they would stop backing the House measure.
The House bill is H.R. 3261 and the Senate bill is S. 968.
--With assistance from Derek Wallbank in Washington. Editors: Steve Walsh, Michael Shepard
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