Tumblr blacks out Web content to protest online piracy bill

Web and social media firms are turning to the best weapon they have in the fight against the Stop Online Piracy Act: their users.

Several prominent social networking sites urged users to call, email or otherwise contact their state's lawmakers on Wednesday to express their opposition to the legislation, which would allow the government or copyright holders to demand companies delete links to websites dedicated to digital piracy.

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The popular micro-blogging platform Tumblr "censored" users' dashboards on Wednesday in protest of the legislation, obscuring text, videos and images as an example of what would happen if the law took effect.

A link at the top of the screen urged Tumblr users to "Stop the Law that will Censor the Net" and directed them to a screen that would automatically call their representative in Congress.

Tumblr told liberal advocacy group Demand Progress that the link was generating 3.6 calls per second on Wednesday afternoon. In addition, an emailing system set up to contact Congress by Demand Progress and Fight for the Future was sending members of Congress more than 23,000 emails per hour, according to executive director David Segal.

Other firms, including the browser maker Mozilla, were similarly directing users to an automated email system set up by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), one of the few House Judiciary members to oppose SOPA at Wednesday's hearing, joined the campaign by "censoring" her website with a link to the EFF's page, located at www.AmericanCensorship.org.

Opponents of the legislation spent much of Wednesday taking to social media to express disappointment in the hearing, which featured only one witness from Google representing Internet companies. The backlash over the perceived slight has helped propel SOPA to become the most-searched term on Google on Wednesday afternoon.