POSTED: Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - 5:02pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - 5:26pm
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — Some of the Internet's top websites and search engines shut down or showed solidarity Wednesday.
Wikipedia had a 24 hour blackout.
Other sites, including Google and the Huffington Post took unprecedented steps to protest anti-piracy web legislation they say threatens the free and open internet.
"They don't take that lightly and they wouldn't do it if they didn't think that these bills that are being proposed in Congress wouldn't significantly change the way the internet works and how users experience the internet," says NetCoalition Executive Director Markham Erickson.
Lawmakers are considering two separate bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, would give the government the authority to monitor and shut down websites accused of distributing pirated content.
It is supported by the film and music industries, but tech companies say the restrictions would equal censorship.
The Senate's bill, the Protect Intellectual Property Act, is aimed at targeting foreign-based internet sites.
It's estimated up to 7,000 websites took part in the protest.
Some sites like Google even directed internet users to an online petition they can sign.
Meanwhile, the president has also gone on record, saying he would veto any piracy bill that is too broad in its focus.
Congressman Lamar Smith, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, issued a statement saying the big web companies are spreading misinformation and that it will not harm sites that are not engaging in "infringing activities".