In protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA), a number of websites are turning themselves off on Wednesday. The two bills, which are meant to stop copyright infringement of media on the internet, are strongly supported by the film, television, and music industries. But the legislation, which gives the U.S. Government the power to censor entire websites, has been widely criticized as infringing upon freedom of speech – an issue a little closer to our hearts than Hollywood’s bottom line.
Several major internet companies, including Google, Facebook, Tumblr, AOL, Twitter and Yahoo have all come out against the legislation. But it is Wikipedia’s decision to go dark for a whole day that has drawn the most attention to the issue. The “Wikipedia blackout” has been widely reported by the media, and is currently trending on Google and Twitter.
The English-language Wikipedia will go dark for a 24-hour period, beginning midnight, Eastern time for all of Wednesday, January 18. Reddit, Boing Boing, Imgur, and MoveOn will be joining Wikipedia’s protest by temporarily shutting down tomorrow.
Sue Gardner, Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director, says of the blackout:
My hope is that when Wikipedia shuts down on January 18, people will understand that we’re doing it for our readers. We support everyone’s right to freedom of thought and freedom of expression. We think everyone should have access to educational material on a wide range of subjects, even if they can’t pay for it. We believe in a free and open Internet where information can be shared without impediment. We believe that new proposed laws like SOPA and PIPA, and other similar laws under discussion inside and outside the United States — don’t advance the interests of the general public.
Read Gardner’s full statement here. And if you have any Wiki searches to do, you’ve got less than 9 hours. Get to it!