Wikipedia Going Offline to Protest SOPA

Wikipedia Blackout

Wikipedia will take its English version offline for 24 hours this Wednesday in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act and PROTECT-IP Act. If, to this day, you are still clueless how these two bills could change the Internet as we know it, for the worse, you could learn more on AmericanCensorship.org.

Wikipedia will not be the only popular destination to go offline on the 18th. The encyclopedia website, on which many depend for work or school, will be joined by Reddit, the first to pledge a blackout on Wednesday; Boing Boing, one of the top 10 blogs according to Technorati; and all of Cheezburger Network’s sites.

The decision was reached only after a discussion among 1,800 Wikipedians, lasting 72 hours, with “the overwhelming majority of participants [supporting] community action to encourage greater public action in response to these two bills,” according to Wikipedia’s press release.

Impact

The mainstream media, especially news networks owned by SOPA and PIPA supporters, have mostly ignored the issue during their evening broadcasts, a recent study shows.

Wikipedia, as one of the most important websites around, could change this. There is no guarantee that the mainstream media will pick up the news, but given the amount of traffic Wikipedia receives every day, the blackout could make more people aware of the issue than otherwise would be.

Word of mouth also could have far-reaching impact.

Foolish much?

To date, most internet companies have condemned the SOPA and PIPA bills, but only few are willing to take drastic measures to make sure the bills are not signed into law. Take Twitter as an example. When asked whether Twitter will join the blackout on Wednesday, CEO Dick Costolo says doing so is foolish.

While I agree that Twitter shouldn’t go offline on Wednesday, I don’t agree with Dick’s point of view. The entire point of major websites to go dark is to generate buzz and awareness. Twitter could be used to do what it does best to reach that objective — by staying online.

However, I wouldn’t say it’s foolish for a global business to take drastic measures in reaction to single-issue national politics, especially when it’s much more than one nation’s politics.

To begin with, one of SOPA’s main objectives is to target foreign “rogue” websites. The bill will allow Hollywood to kill foreign websites by depriving them of financial services, revenues, and U.S. traffic. And by foreign, it means websites with a non-U.S. domain name or IP address. If that’s not global, I don’t know what is.

If that’s not bad enough, even U.S.-based websites could be subjected to the bill. Any websites with domain names that are not registered under a U.S.-based registrar are categorized as “foreign internet site,” according to SOPA’s list of definitions.

Under the definition, services with foreign top-level domains, such as about.me and bit.ly, could be subjected to SOPA, as well as all the upcoming .ly, .io, etc., startups. This affects innovation, which in turn affects every single Internet user in the world, making it a global issue, and not a national one.

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