Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales wanted to send a “big message” to the U.S. government regarding the two heinous internet censorship bills currently being considered, and after a brief period of debate the world’s encyclopedia will soon do just that.
The Wikipedia founder announced on Twitter today that starting at midnight on Wednesday, January 18, the English language version of the world’s encyclopedia will go dark for 24 hours in protest of SOPA and PIPA. With their commitment confirmed, Wikipedia will be joining a slew of websites and companies that will suspend their operations for one day in an effort raise awareness around the two bills.
Meant to curb IP theft and piracy, the (imaginatively named) Stop Online Piracy Act and the PROTECT IP Act have raised eyebrows recently due to their decidedly scorched-earth approach to handling suspected offenders. Websites found to offer pirated content, along with the services that they use, could be hidden from US internet users by being delisted on search engines and potentially on DNS servers themselves.
Rather than let users access Wikipedia’s vast stores of English-language information on the 18th, Wales mentioned that the Wikipedia landing page will instead be populated with a letter of protest and a call to action that urges readers to get involved with the issue. It doesn’t appear as though the new landing page has been finalized, but one of the community’s prototypes can be seen above.
The news comes after a lengthy debate as to the particulars of such a grand gesture — whether or not the site should participate at all, which versions of the site would be affected, and how exactly the blackout would go down were all on the table for the community to discuss. Ultimately, the consensus pointed to a full blackout as a the proper way to make their collective displeasure known. There’s no official word on how other parts of the site will handle the event, although Wales has mentioned that the German language version of the site will be displaying a banner in support.
Meanwhile, some of SOPA’s supporters are already reacting to the very public backlash against the bill. Ars Technica reports that Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) would be pulling his DNS-blocking provisions from the bill after having consulted with “industry groups across the country.” What’s more, the White House has responded to two petitions about SOPA and PIPA on the official White House blog stating that they will not “support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.”
Wales notes on Twitter that while SOPA has been “crippled,” buts its counterpart in the Senate is still very much alive and very dangerous. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently popped up on Meet The Press claiming his continued support for PIPA even though it “could create some problems.”
Though the event is meant to raise public awareness over two critical pieces of legislation, Wales still took a moment to offer a bit of sage advice for students heading back to school: