Wikipedia to be blacked out over anti-piracy bill (Update)

Jan 16, 2012 By SARAH SKIDMORE , AP Business Writer

Wikipedia will black out the English language version of its website Wednesday to protest anti-piracy legislation under consideration in Congress, the foundation behind the popular community-based online encyclopedia said in a statement Monday night.

The website will go dark for 24 hours in an unprecedented move that brings added muscle to a growing base of critics of the legislation. Wikipedia is considered one of the Internet's most popular websites, with millions of visitors daily.

"If passed, this legislation will harm the free and open Internet and bring about new tools for censorship of international websites inside the United States," the Wikimedia foundation said.

The Stop Online Piracy Act in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Protect Intellectual Property Act under consideration in the Senate are designed to crack down on sales of pirated U.S. products overseas.

Supporters include the film and music industry, which often sees its products sold illegally. They say the legislation is needed to protect intellectual property and jobs.

Critics say the legislation could hurt the technology industry and infringe on free-speech rights. Among their concerns are provisions that would weaken cyber-security for companies and hinder domain access rights.

The most controversial provision is in the House bill, which would have enabled federal authorities to "blacklist" sites that are alleged to distribute pirated content. That would essentially cut off portions of the Internet to all U.S. users. But congressional leaders appear to be backing off this provision.

Tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, eBay, AOL and others have spoken out against the legislation and said it threatens the industry's livelihood. Several online communities such as Reddit, Boing Boing and others have announced plans to go dark in protest as well.

The Obama administration also raised concerns about the legislation over the weekend and said it will work with Congress on legislation to help battle piracy and counterfeiting while defending free expression, privacy, security and innovation in the Internet.

Wikipedia's decision to go dark brings the issue into a much brighter spotlight. A group of Wikipedia users have discussed for more than a month whether it should react to the legislation.

Over the past few days, a group of more than 1,800 volunteers who work on the site and other users considered several forms of online protest, including banner ads and a global blackout of the site, the foundation said. Ultimately, the group supported the decision to black out the English version of the site.

Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia who first announced the move on his Twitter account Monday, said the bills are a threat to the free, open, and secure web.

"The whole thing is just a poorly designed mess," Wales said in an email to The Associated Press.

Wikipedia is also requesting that readers contact members of Congress about the bill during the blackout.

"I am personally asking everyone who cares about freedom and openness on the Internet to contact their Senators and Representative," Wales said. "One of the things we have learned recently during the Arab spring events is that the Internet is a powerfully effective tool for the public to organize and have their voices heard."

Wikipedia will shut down access from midnight Eastern Standard Time on Tuesday night until midnight Wednesday.

This is the first time Wikipedia's English version has gone dark. Its Italian site came down once briefly in protest to an Internet censorship bill put forward by the Berlusconi government; the bill did not advance.

"Wikipedia is about being open," said Jay Walsh, spokesman for the Wikimedia foundation. "We are not about shutting down and protesting. It's not a muscle that is normally flexed."

Explore further: Fitbit to Schumer: We don't sell personal data

4.8 /5 (18 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Internet pioneers oppose US online piracy bills

Dec 14, 2011

The founders of Craigslist, eBay, Google, Twitter, Yahoo! and other Internet giants expressed concern to the US Congress on Wednesday over legislation intended to crack down on online piracy.

'Rogue websites' bill introduced in US House

Oct 27, 2011

US lawmakers introduced a bill on Wednesday that would give US authorities more tools to crack down on websites accused of piracy of movies, television shows and music and the sale of counterfeit goods.

Recommended for you

US warns shops to watch for customer data hacking

2 hours ago

The US Department of Homeland Security on Friday warned businesses to watch for hackers targeting customer data with malicious computer code like that used against retail giant Target.

Fitbit to Schumer: We don't sell personal data

16 hours ago

The maker of a popular line of wearable fitness-tracking devices says it has never sold personal data to advertisers, contrary to concerns raised by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.

Should you be worried about paid editors on Wikipedia?

21 hours ago

Whether you trust it or ignore it, Wikipedia is one of the most popular websites in the world and accessed by millions of people every day. So would you trust it any more (or even less) if you knew people ...

How much do we really know about privacy on Facebook?

22 hours ago

The recent furore about the Facebook Messenger app has unearthed an interesting question: how far are we willing to allow our privacy to be pushed for our social connections? In the case of the Facebook ...

Philippines makes arrests in online extortion ring

22 hours ago

Philippine police have arrested eight suspected members of an online syndicate accused of blackmailing more than 1,000 Hong Kong and Singapore residents after luring them into exposing themselves in front of webcam, an official ...

Google to help boost Greece's tourism industry

Aug 21, 2014

Internet giant Google will offer management courses to 3,000 tourism businesses on the island of Crete as part of an initiative to promote the sector in Greece, industry union Sete said on Thursday.

User comments : 10

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (6) Jan 16, 2012
Call your representative and voice your opposition to SOPA, PIPA and E-PARASITE
1.4 / 5 (10) Jan 16, 2012
I am tired of having to wade through wiki to find anything useful on google.
I know I should stop using google.
5 / 5 (2) Jan 16, 2012
I am tired of having to wade through wiki to find anything useful on google.
I know I should stop using google.

im in china, and google has not been working at all for the last few days. i can use gmail, but that is all. you guys outside of china receive any news about that?
3 / 5 (2) Jan 16, 2012
I see no news about google and china since last july when they said that the Chinese government would not be shutting down maybe they changed their minds?
4 / 5 (2) Jan 17, 2012
No news on google in China, but India said recently it can block facebook an google (maybe they meen googleplus) like China.
4 / 5 (4) Jan 17, 2012
If wikipedia goes offline then that's a bad hit on humanity's extended mind:
5 / 5 (1) Jan 17, 2012
I see no news about google and china since last july when they said that the Chinese government would not be shutting down maybe they changed their minds?

thanks. actually, i did see somewhere that google was thinking of changing their stance on china because they wanted to at least get some of the market. I saw that...maybe here on physorg? I saw it like one or two days before suddenly the google main page stopped working, and when using chrome search bar (the one that says the url in most browsers but can automatically do a google search using chrome) stopped working entirely If i type, it will labor for a while and then just time out, just like with facebook. If i type 'potato' or 'washington' or 'vanilla icecream' or anything else, it suddenly gets a "connection reset" error in chinese.
1 / 5 (1) Jan 17, 2012
How will the world be able to think on Wednesday?
5 / 5 (2) Jan 17, 2012
ryggesoqn2: Normally I would not bother with you, but I agree that you stop using Google...and the rest of the internet as well.
not rated yet Jan 18, 2012
bing works here in china though. im not used to using it because i use gmail and chrome. but i should have mentioned that sooner. still works here in china last i checked. and i just tried to use google now while writing this comment and it is working fine. anyway, there you go.