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Wikipedia Blackout To Go Ahead Despite SOPA Pullout

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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Wikipedia and other high-profile websites will shut down for 24 hours in protest against ‘devastating’ anti-piracy bills, while Twitter’s CEO has called the action ‘foolish’

Wikipedia has confirmed it will carry out a 24-hour blackout in protest against two proposed US anti-piracy bills, despite the apparent failure of one of them – the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) – in the US House of Representatives.

The move is intended to highlight the potential danger to the Internet posed by the two bills and others like them, Wikipedia said. Opponents of the two bills argue that some of the bills’ provisions would amount to censorship of the Internet.

Blackout

The blackout will see Wikipedia’s English-language version being taken offline worldwide for 24 hours, starting at midnight Eastern Standard Time (05:00 GMT) on Wednesday.

Other high-profile websites such as news site Reddit and blog BoingBoing are also taking part in the blackout, while companies such as Twitter have opposed the protest.

Wikipedia said that the issue at stake is wider than SOPA and PIPA alone.

“Sopa and Pipa are just indicators of a much broader problem,” Wikipedia said in a statement. “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.” The bills would be devastating to the free and open web”, Wikipedia said.

Wikipedia also noted that PIPA is still progressing through the US Senate.

The protest was criticised by Twitter chief executive Dick Costolo. When asked whether Twitter would join the protest, he tweeted: “Closing a global business in reaction to single-issue national politics is foolish.” Costolo later clarified that the comment was not meant to be a judgement against other organisations taking part in the protest.

SOPA, which would require Internet companies to censor Internet links to sites deemed to be breaking copyright, has inspired massive protest, including criticism from President Obama. On Monday Republican senators decided to withdraw the bill.

Criticism

SOPA was criticised for likely dire consequences to the Internet’s structure, and for interfering with free speech. The bill would require internet companies to censor links to sites believed to be hosting copyright material, and cut such sites off from services such as PayPal.

Opposition to the bill came from the IT industry, even including games makers, as well as Microsoft and members of the anti-piracy Business Software Alliance.

One company which supported SOPA, registrar GoDaddy, faced a consumer boycott losing 72,000 domains.

News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch took issue with the US President’s opposition to SOPA. Over the weekend he tweeted: “So Obama has thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery.”