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The Web’s Growing Muscle

Google Inc. held a holiday bash in December on a rooftop overlooking the Capitol, where congressional staffers and other Washington denizens nibbled on minipizzas and received a gift of red Google mittens.

The party wasn’t very different from those held by other Washington powerhouses during the holidays. But, as lawmakers soon learned, Internet companies can also wield a tool the others usually can’t. Last week, Web users flooded Congress with messages of protest against antipiracy legislation, forcing backers to abandon their bills almost as quickly as they could say “Wikipedia blackout.