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Millions seeing 'Stop SOPA' message on Twitter

A lot of people are fiercely committed to defeating the Stop Online Piracy Act. One way they're expressing their displeasure with the bipartisan bill is adding antilegislation banners to their Twitter profile images.

One Web site is making it easy for people to add a banner to their Twitter profile images to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act.
Screenshot by CNET

It may be a small bit of protest--literally--but thousands of people have been turning to Twitter to urge their followers to help defeat the Stop Online Piracy Act.

All over Twitter these days, you can find people who have plastered a "Stop SOPA" banner across their profile images. As of this writing, more than 14,000 users have added the banner, and according to the #BlackoutSOPA Web site, those users are reaching nearly 24.6 million followers.

Twitter profile images have long been a place to express a protest message. Thousands are using their images to urge Congress not to pass the Stop Online Piracy Act. Screenshot by CNET

To be sure, there's a lot of energy out there on the Internet these days to defeat SOPA. The news site Reddit has committed to going silent for 12 hours on January 18, and the Internet meme factory Cheezburger Network has done the same. As well, Wikipedia looks poised to undertake some kind of nationwide boycott on the same day.

But for some, adding the banner appears to be their own private way to get the word out that the legislation--which is beloved by Hollywood but detested in Silicon Valley--should be halted. (See CNET's FAQ on SOPA.)

And it's not just a collection of unknown Twitter users who are on board. Digerati and entertainment big shots like Tim O'Reilly, Digg founder Kevin Rose, Twitter founder Evan Williams, rapper MC Hammer, Path founder Dave Morin, 500 Startups investor Dave McClure, and many others have adopted the little black banners.

It's unknown, of course, what will happen with SOPA, or its sister bill in the U.S. Senate, the Protect IP Act (PIPA). But perhaps the antilegislation pressure on Twitter--and elsewhere, of course--is getting to the bills' proponents. On Friday, SOPA sponsor, U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), announced he was yanking one key provision from the proposed law. Smith said he is pulling a Domain Name System provision from the bill that would force ISPs to cut access to overseas Web sites accused of piracy. And the Obama administration published a skeptical statement today about SOPA and other antipiracy measures.

For now, though, as the days dwindle before the next set of legislative moves on SOPA, the number of people getting behind the "Stop SOPA" message is growing. And millions of people are listening.