Who says SOPA limits online expression? It generated 2.4 million tweets on Wednesday as people shut out from Wikipedia and other sites turned to Twitter to vent their frustration with the anti-piracy legislation.
The tweets were decidely one-sided, with pro-SOPA sentiment about as easy to find as -- well, a Wikipedia entry. Twitter said the top five terms of the day were SOPA, Stop SOPA, PIPA, Tell Congress and #factswithoutwikipedia, all related to the debate.
SOPA refers to the House legislation the Stop Internet Piracy Act, and PIPA for its Senate counterpart, the Protect Intellectual Propert Act. Wikipedia and other sites went dark Wednesday to protest them.
The bills are intended to prevent copyright infringement and intellectual property theft. But opponents say they would limit expression and require draconian responses to improper use, including blocking access to websites that post copyrighted material and imprisoning people who share it.
The 2.4 million tweets came just between midnight and 4 p.m. Wednesday; Twitter was expected to release numbers for the whole day later.
Among high-profile opponents of the bills was Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who said in his first tweet since 2009: "Tell you congressmen you want them to be pro-Internet." He then linked to a Facebook post about the legislation.
Among the highly retweeted Tweets was this one from David Shares, who runs the technology and culture blog BitShare:
"If #SOPA passes, there'll be NO YouTube, Twitter, Google, Wikipedia, Facebook & Tumblr, #SOPAstrike today and End Piracy, Not Liberty!"
Advocates of SOPA say it would only block access to websites that repeatedly use pirated material.
Another frequently retweeted argument was that those who upload a Michael Jackson could get five years in prison under SOPA -- one year longer than Conrad Murphy, the doctor convicted in his death. (This isn't exactly accurate; under section 201 of SOPA, one would need to upload 10 or more copies of at least one Michael Jackson song. But the point is made.)
Other tweets blacked out certain words to create ominous messages, like this one:
"WTF is SOPA? ---- ----- ----- ----- It's ----- Internet ---- censorship. RETWEET if you are against #SOPA. #stopsopa." The tweet contained a link to an anti-SOPA video on YouTube including Internet users with their mouths taped.
The tweets showed no signs of slowing Thursday.