January 17, 2011
The Wikipedia community has announced a decision to throw the English-language Wikipedia into "blackout" mode for 24 hours in protest of the proposed US Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECTIP Act (PIPA).
The lights will go out from 05:00 UTC on Wednesday, January 18.
According to a statement from Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation; this will be the first time the English Wikipedia has ever staged such an action and it was a decision not made lightly. The online resource attracts over 25 million visitors daily, but the Foundation felt too much is at stake.
"It is the opinion of the English Wikipedia community that both of these bills, if passed, would be devastating to the free and open web."
Ms. Gardner acknowledged Wikipedia may be criticised for "seeming to abandon neutrality to take a political position". However, a Wikimedia Foundation board member wrote that SOPA threatens the publishing of knowledge through censorship without due process if the bills are enacted.
Wikipedia's announcement occurs just days after a provision was struck from SOPA that would have forced ISP's to block access to foreign websites allegedly dealing in counterfeit goods and/or accused of other forms of intellectual property infringements. This provision was said to threaten security enhancements made with the introduction of DNSSEC, implemented to make the Domain Name System (DNS) more stable and trustworthy.
The reasoning behind Wikipedia's action being global rather than US-only according to Ms. Gardner: "SOPA and PIPA are just indicators of a much broader problem. All around the world, we're seeing the development of legislation seeking to regulate the Internet in other ways while hurting our online freedoms."
Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia founder, issued a warning via his Twitter account about the looming blackout, stating: "Student warning! Do your homework early. Wikipedia protesting bad law on Wednesday!" Mr. Wales is encouraging concerned parties to contact their local political representative in regard to their opposition to SOPA and PIPA.
The full text of Ms. Gardner's statement can be viewed here.
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