Wikipedia blacks-out in 24 hour protest


Anti-piracy laws might be threatening the freedom of the interenet and the world’s sixth most popular website is not taking things lying down

We are in the middle of a blackout. Nobody panic.

At 5am GMT this morning Wikipedia went dark and took with it easy access to a wealth of free information which we normally take for granted. I just searched to see how many people use Wikipedia every day – a task hindered by the absence of our encyclopaedic digital friend. (365 million worldwide, incidentally.)

Wikipedia has taken down its English-language site as part of a protest against proposed anti-piracy laws in the US.

The Stop Piracy Online Act, affectionately known as SOPA, and its close friend the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) are currently being debated by congress. If Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is to be believed, the acts would “fatally damage free and open internet” if they were passed.

London-based online technology magazine The Kernal also joined the blackout.

Online technology magazine The Kernal's protest page

Online technology magazine The Kernal’s protest page

According to sources Google made a stand by blotting out its logo and linking to an online petition urging congress not to censor the web (I can’t say when this was as the logo is currently appearing – a short snappy protest, perhaps).

Videos have popped up all over the web starring a certain German dictator making a fairly strong accusation of crushing the free press. No word mincing there.

Even the Whitehouse seems to be in opposition to the bills, having issued the following statement:

“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.”

So with mounting opposition and a possible presidential “veto” it looks like the bills will have a hard job squeezing through into action.

Wikipedia however is not taking any chances: “We don’t think Sopa is going away, and Pipa is still quite active,” it said in a statement.

“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.”

These are dark days (day, sorry). The blackout continues.

No Wikipedia until 5am tomorrow?! Here’s a little cheat – the site is still up and running in other languages. Simply use Google translate, or use the opportunity to brush up on that second language.