MANILA, Philippines — If you’re writing a term paper due this week, you might want to do your online research earlier as every student’s favorite online resource — Wikipedia — is shutting its doors to users for 24 hours on Wednesday.
The “blackout,” as the people behind it call the move, will occur beginning 5:00am UTC (around 1:00pm in the Philippines) in protest of a controversial US bill that seeks to curb online piracy.
In a statement posted on the Wikimedia Foundation website on Tuesday, the online encyclopedia said an “overwhelming majority” of its online community is backing the move, amongst other public forms of protest against the proposed legislation.
“The blackout is a protest against proposed legislation in the United States—the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the PROTECTIP Act (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate—that, if passed, would seriously damage the free and open Internet, including Wikipedia,” said Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Sue Gardner.
While protesters have acknowledged that both SOPA and PIPA are well-intentioned bills, they said the measures are “intrinsically flawed” in such a way that it deviates from the free and open nature of the Internet.
Among other provisions in the bill, anti-SOPA entities are calling out a proposal that allows the government to go after websites that provide information on how to circumvent the censorship mechanisms of the proposed law.
“That means social media sites like Facebook or YouTube—basically any site with user generated content—would have to police their own sites, forcing huge liability costs onto countless Internet companies,” according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
US President Barack Obama had already issued a statement opposing the said bills as written, saying, “any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity.”
“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 cyber-security risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet,” the White House said.
Despite such a development–and in the wake of various legislators already turning lukewarm in terms of their support of the bills–Wikipedia said it is forging on with the protest to send a clear message to lawmakers.
“The reality is that we don’t think SOPA is going away, and PIPA is still quite active. Moreover, SOPA and PIPA are just indicators of a much broader problem,” Wikipedia stressed.
“All around the world, we’re seeing the development of legislation seeking to regulate the Internet in other ways while hurting our online freedoms,” it added.
Reddit, another online community website, had earlier announced its plans to go on protest on Wednesday. Other web properties such as sites of the popular Cheezburger Network and popular blog Boing Boing have said that they will also be joining the blackout protest.
Popular microblogging site Twitter, on the other hand, has said that it will not be joining the Wednesday blackout, with its CEO Dick Costolo even calling Wikipedia’s move “silly.”
— dick costolo (@dickc) January 16, 2012
Other popular online destinations such as Google and Facebook have yet to announce their plans to join the protest. Tumblr, meanwhile, had publicly encouraged its users to call their respective congressmen and convince them to withdraw support for SOPA, but has not announced plans of a blackout.
The US House of Representatives had said that it is shelving SOPA indefinitely, while the Senate is reportedly pushing through with the vote on PIPA on January 24.