Wikipedia to go offline for 24 hours in SOPA protest; Twitter declines
By James Ashworth
WIKIPEDIA, in an unprecedented decision, has decided to black out the English version of the popular online encyclopedia for 24 hours this Wednesday to protest against the controversial SOPA legislation in the U.S.
Following the cue given by some other sites, including social news site Reddit which will black out its site for 12 hours on the same day, Wikipedia has also decided to make a stand against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).
Google, Yahoo, Facebook, legislators, and some key personalities like Internet pioneer Vint Cerf have also opposed the SOPA legislation.
Yesterday the Wikimedia Foundation confirmed 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," said a representative of the Wikimedia Foundation, which operates Wikipedia, in a statement on its website.
Reddit said last week that instead of the "user-curated chaos of Reddit", it will be displaying a message about "how the legislation would shut down sites like Reddit, link to resources to learn more, and suggest ways to take action".
However, Twitter's CEO Dick Costolo 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.
On Monday, Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia's cofounder, said on Twitter that "Rumours 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".
Wikipedia urged readers in the U.S. to contact their elected representatives in Washington, or if they are users outside the U.S., to contact the foreign ministries of their countries and tell them that "you oppose SOPA and PIPA, and want the Internet to remain open and free".
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. However, the statement did not directly say whether the White House opposes SOPA or PIPA.
"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.
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.
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