Wikipedia has taken its English language site offline as part of protests against proposed anti piracy censorship laws in the US.Anyone attempting to access the site just sees a black screen and a political statement: “Imagine a world without free knowledge.”
Wikipedia, which attracts millions of hits every day, is opposed to the US Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) being debated by Congress.
The legislation would allow the Justice Department and content owners to seek court orders requiring search engines to block results associated with piracy.
The site’s founder, Jimmy Wales, told the BBC: “Proponents of Sopa have characterised the opposition as being people who want to enable piracy or defend piracy”.
“But that’s not really the point. The point is the bill 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.”
The message replacing the normal Wikipedia front page on the internet says: “For over a decade, we have spent millions of hours building the largest encyclopaedia in human history. Right now, the US Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open internet. For 24 hours, to raise awareness, we are blacking out Wikipedia.”
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales: ”These bills are very badly written”
Even Google.com joined the protest, blacking out its logo and linking to an online petition urging Congress to not censor the web.
Sopa’s supporters in the House of Representatives say the legislation is designed to stop revenue flowing to “rogue websites”. A similar bill, Pipa, is making its way through the US Senate.
A sign of how bad this legislation may be is that even the arch hacker Murdoch- whose media organisation has been likened to the mafia for it’s “industrial illegal activities” aka phone and email hacking- supports these bills.
On Saturday the White House issued a statement that appeared to side with critics of the legislation.
It said: “While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global internet.”
Despite the hint of a presidential veto, Wikipedia said that the English site’s administrators had decided to stage its first ever public protest because the bills “would be devastating to the free and open web”.
It added: “We don’t think Sopa is going away, and Pipa is still quite active. Moreover, Sopa and Pipa are just indicators of a much broader problem. All around the world, we’re seeing the development of legislation intended to fight online piracy, and regulate the internet in other ways, that hurt online freedoms.”