Wikipedia's English-language site is leading a protest against the new Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) that major Internet companies consider draconian. Wikipedia, along with some others, will "blackout" on Jan. 18 for 24 hrs.
Users attempting to access Wikipedia are taken within seconds to a black screen with the message:
"Imagine a world without free knowledge: For over a decade, we have spent millions of hours building the largest encyclopedia in human history. Right now, the U.S. Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open Internet. For 24 hours, to raise awareness, we are blacking out Wikipedia."
The blog Boing Boing has also blacked out with the message:
"Boing Boing is offline today because the U.S. Senate is considering legislation that would certainly kill us forever. The legislation...would put us in legal jeopardy if we linked to a site anywhere online that had any links to copyright infringement."Daily Mail reports Wikipedia's founder Jimmy Wales, had told students via Twitter to do homework ahead of the blackout. Wikipedia's "blackout" is supported fully or partially by other sites such as BoingBoing, Reddit, WordPress and Metafilter. Other online giants such as Google, Craiglist and Firefox are hosting messages in support of the anti-piracy law protest.
Google has modified its homepage to show a black patch over its logo in solidarity. It also carried a message "Tell Congress: Please don't censor the web!" Craiglist has a message telling "Corporate paymasters" to "keep those clammy hands off the Internet."
Daily Mail reports Reddit will observe a blackout for 12 hours and that Mozilla says it will also be protesting briefly with a blackout. Wordpress.org is also featuring a protest call in its homepage which says:
" WordPress.org Protests The Protect IP Act: Many websites are blacked out today to protest proposed U.S. legislation that threatens internet freedom: the Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). From personal blogs to Wikipedia, sites all over the web — including this one — are asking you to help stop this dangerous legislation from being passed. Please watch the video below to learn how this legislation will affect internet freedom, then scroll down to take action."
Wikipedia turned its site black to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).
Other sites participating partially in the protest include ModernMethod Network, which includes sites such as Destructoid, Flixist, Tomopop and Japanator.
The CEO of Twitter Dick Costolo, has openly criticized the action. According to The Next Web, Costolo reacted to the question whether Twitter will join in the protest with a blackout, with the tweet: "..that's just silly. Closing a global business in reaction to single-issue national politics is foolish."
Facebook is also not participating in the protest.
Loopholes in Wikipedia's blackout protest
Meanwhile, users of the English-language service of Wikipedia have been quick to find ways around the Wikipedia "blackout." Only the the English-language version of the site accessed via browsers such as PC and iPad are affected. One may still access Wikipedia pages through a phone browser. According to Daily Mail, one may still access "PC pages by reloading Wikipedia pages to remove the 'protest' page and then pressing 'stop.'"
Implications of SOPACNN reports that if the anti-piracy bill is passed, "copyright holders would be able to complain to law enforcement officials and get websites shut down. Search engines and other providers would have to block rogue sites when ordered to do so by a judge. Sites could be punished for hosting pirated content, and Internet companies are worried they could be held liable for users' actions."
According to CNN, a Senate Democratic aide has acknowledged that the protest against SOPA by Internet giants such as Google and Wikipedia is making the bill lose its merit, and may keep senators from voting to even take it up. The aide said: "Before it looked like it would pass with 80 votes, and now (the online protest) looks like something that will suck the votes away. We're at a tipping point. It will either become a huge issue or die down a bit and that will determine the future of this."
New York Times reports that industry watchers acknowledge that the protest action signals the political "coming of age for a relatively young and disorganized industry that has largely steered clear of lobbying and other political games in Washington." According to Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School, “This is the first real test of the political strength of the Web, and regardless of how things go, they are no longer a pushover...The Web taking a stand against one of the most powerful lobbyers and seeming to get somewhere is definitely a first.”