Wikipedia to go dark in SOPA protest, Twitter declines

Wikipedia's co-founder Jimmy Wales said the controversial legislation is far from dead

Wikipedia has decided to black out the English version of the online encyclopedia for 24 hours on Wednesday to protest against controversial legislation in the U.S., following a cue given by some other Internet sites including social news site Reddit which will black out its site for 12 hours on the same day.

Twitter's CEO Dick Costolo however said in a message on Twitter that "Closing a global business in reaction to single-issue national politics is foolish". He later clarified that he was talking about Twitter and not about Wikipedia's decision.

PRIMER: The Stop Online Piracy Act

BACKGROUND: Opponent says SOPA may be stalled in Congress

Wikimedia Foundation said on Monday that the Wikipedia community had chosen to black out its English version to protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate.

"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," Wikimedia Foundation, which operates Wikipedia, said in a statement on its website.

Three officials of U.S. President Barack Obama's administration issued a statement on Saturday on legislation including SOPA, the Protect IP Act (PIPA), and the Online Protection and Digital ENforcement Act (OPEN), in response to petitions.

"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," said the statement which was signed by Victoria Espinel, the White House intellectual property enforcement coordinator, Aneesh Chopra, U.S. chief technology officer, and Howard Schmidt, special assistant to the president and cybersecurity coordinator for the National Security Staff.

The statement did not directly say whether the White House opposes SOPA or PIPA.

Trevor Timm, an activist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said on Monday that the Obama administration drew "an important line in the sand" by stating that it will not support legislation "that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet".

Yet, the fight is still far from over, he said, as the Senate is still poised to bring PIPA to the floor next week, and SOPA proponents in the House are likely to try to revive the legislation, unless they get the message that these initiatives must stop.

Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia's cofounder, said on Twitter on Monday that "Rumors of the death of SOPA may be premature" and added that "PIPA is still going strong". "But the best action for twitter might be to let us continue to use the service to organize our protests", he said.

Wikipedia urged readers in the U.S. to contact their elected representatives in Washington, or the foreign ministries of their countries, if they are users outside the U.S., to tell them that "you oppose SOPA and PIPA, and want the internet to remain open and free".

Reddit said last week that instead of the "user-curated chaos of reddit", it will be displaying a message about "how the PIPA/SOPA legislation would shut down sites like reddit, link to resources to learn more, and suggest ways to take action".

Google, Yahoo, Facebook, legislators, and some key personalities like Internet pioneer Vint Cerf have opposed the SOPA legislation.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies