Wikipedia, Reddit in 'blackout' against SOPA, PROTECT IP laws

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wikimedia-logo.svg This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.
Jimmy Wales has strongly advocated for the blackout
Image: Wikimedia Israel.
Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation.
Image: Ralf Roletschek.

The English version of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia will go offline for 24 hours in protest against American anti-piracy laws, the Stop Online Piracy Act and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). The blackout will start at midnight EST (05:00 UTC) on Wednesday. The action was confirmed on Monday night with three Wikipedia administrators closing one of the most commented on policy discussions in the history of Wikipedia. According to the Wikipedia page where the issue was debated, 479 users supported a blackout only for users in the United States (with other readers seeing a banner instead), while 591 supported a global blackout.

Users who visit the site during the blackout will see a message which asks them to email their Representatives and Senators. A number of other websites are also taking part, including the social media site Reddit, the Boing Boing blog, and the sites owned by Cheezburger Network. Google also announced that they would have a link on their homepage opposing SOPA and PIPA.

Supporters of the blackout claim that the proposed laws would pose "an existential threat to Wikipedia", and that a shutdown would be a "graphic method of driving home the point". Opponents instead argue that the blackout threatens Wikipedia's neutrality (one opponent wrote that "[a]ny action of this sort from Wikipedia's side will undermine the public's perception of Wikipedia as a politically neutral website") and that it risks becoming involved in politics. Other opponents claimed that "SOPA does not directly endanger Wikipedia".

In a public statement, Sue Gardner, the Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, responded to the charge made by opponents of the blackout: "In making this decision, Wikipedians will be criticized for seeming to abandon neutrality to take a political position. That’s a real, legitimate issue... although Wikipedia’s articles are neutral, its existence is not".

The co-founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, instead took to the microblogging service Twitter to express his views on the blackout, telling students to "do [their] homework early" to avoid not being able to access the site. Wales also said: "This is going to be wow. I hope Wikipedia will melt phone systems in Washington on Wednesday. Tell everyone you know!"

Wales also told reporters that those supporting the laws "have characterised the opposition as being people who want to enable piracy or defend piracy", but that the drafted legislation "is so over broad and so badly written that it's going to impact all kinds of things that, you know, don't have anything to do with stopping piracy".

Chris Dodd from the Motion Picture Association of America, which supports SOPA/PIPA, released a statement accusing "some technology business interests" of attempting to pull "stunts that punish their users or turn them into their corporate pawns, rather than coming to the table to find solutions to a problem that all now seem to agree is very real and damaging". Dodd went on to claim that the blackout actions are "irresponsible", "dangerous" and "a disservice to people who rely on them for information and use their services".



Sources

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