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Internet Censorship: Wikipedia to Go Dark for a Day in Protest Against US Government’s Stop Online Privacy Act

Posted on the 17 January 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost

Internet censorship: Wikipedia to go dark for a day in protest against US government’s Stop Online Privacy Act

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales. Photo credit: William Brawley

Wikipedia has chosen to blackout the English version of the hugely popular site for the whole of January 18 in protest against proposed legislation in the United States – the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives, and PROTECTIP (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate.

“If passed”, said a Wikipedia statement, “this legislation will harm the free and open Internet and bring about new tools for censorship of international websites inside the United States.” The online encyclopedia is the sixth most popular site on the internet, handling 234 million page views each day on the English edition.

Similar blackouts are planned by other websites including Reddit, the popular news sharing site, and the Cheezburger websites, which attract 16.5 million visitors a month to look at funny cat videos and photos, reported The Guardian. Other tech leaders were less enamored of Wikipedia’s move. In a tweet, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo called Wikipedia’s plans to pull the plug on its website “foolish” and “silly.”

Wikipedia’s decision means the site’s millions of visitors will, on Wednesday, be greeted not with the usual digital treasure trove of knowledge, but with a screen explaining the company’s stance on the bill and information on how to take action against SOPA.

“Today Wikipedians from around the world have spoken about their opposition to this destructive legislation”, said Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia. “This is an extraordinary action for our community to take – and while we regret having to prevent the world from having access to Wikipedia for even a second, we simply cannot ignore the fact that SOPA and PIPA endanger free speech both in the United States and abroad, and set a frightening precedent of Internet censorship for the world.”

SOPA battle heating up. Dominic Rushe at The Guardian reported on how Wikipedia came to their decision: “Wikimedia, the foundation behind the site, discussed the move with ‘Wikipedians’ – the authors of its entries – and the company said the majority favored action.” Rushe predicted Wikipedia’s blackout will up the ante: “So far, the Sopa battle has been largely fought out in the tech, media, and business pages. All that could change Wednesday when Wikipedia goes dark.”

“I’m with @jimmy_wales on SOPA (it would affect Britain), Worth letting Twitter boss @dickc know your views”, advised Labour MP Tom Watson on Twitter.

Alerting passive users. Dino Grandoni of The Atlantic Wire supported Wikipedia’s bold move and said it will bring much-needed attention to the problems posed by the “much-maligned internet censorship bill.” “Unlike Reddit users, who you’d expect to be anti-SOPA partisans anyways, a Wikipedia blackout will make site’s more passive users very aware of the bill’s existence when they lose access to that repertoire of knowledge that is Wikipedia”, forecast Grandoni.

World without Wikipedia. Snarky website Gawker drew up a humorous “how to exploit Wikipedia’s shutdown” guide “a day without Wikipedia sounds terrifying and exhilarating all at once … The right question is, ‘what won’t we do without it:’” Gawker advised readers to lie to their friends – “you will be able to make up so much shit Wednesday” – warned students not to rely on Wikipedia on Wednesday, and urged mischief-makers to “send enemies to Wikileaks and/or Enyclopedia Dramatica. They’re sorta like Wikipedia, except you can get in trouble for viewing them at work.”

“Student warning! Do your homework early”, joked Wales in a tweet. “Wikipedia protesting bad law on Wednesday!”

Murdoch backs SOPA. Mashable reported that Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corporation and never one scared to swim against the tide of public opinion, went on a Twitter diatribe lambasting the Obama administration for failing to support SOPA.

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