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Wikipedia Could Temporarily Shutdown In SOPA Protest

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Wikipedia could shut down to put pressure on congress not to pass SOPA

Wikipedia has proposed that it should temporarily shut down in protest against the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).

Co-founder Jimmy Wales has suggested that the online enclyclopedia should take the drastic measure of shutting down the English version of its site as a “public uprising” is necessary to stop the progress of the anti-piracy laws through congress.

Community Strike

Wales said that the “community strike” would put pressure on politicians and has asked contributors to express their views, before carrying out a more formal poll.

“Right now, what I’m thinking is that if there is a credible threat that this might happen, this could have a positive impact on the thinking of some legislators, said Wales on his personal Wikipedia profile page. “Do not underestimate our power – in my opinion, they are terrified of a public uprising about this, and we are uniquely positioned to start that.”

A similar shutdown occurred in October when the Italian version of the site was replaced by a statement which criticised new laws which would have forced it to delete material immediately in the event of a defamation claim. Wales said that the parliament backed down immediately following the protest.

“As Wikipedians may or may not be aware, a much worse law going under the misleading title of “Stop Online Piracy Act’ is working its way through Congress on a bit of a fast track,” said Wales. “I thought this would be a good time to take a quick reading of the community feeling on this issue. My own view is that a community strike was very powerful and successful in Italy and could be even more powerful in this case.”

SOPA is especially relevant to Wikipedia as it could force websites with user-generated material to either impose restrictions or closely monitor activity.

Wales said that he would be attending a number of meetings in Washington DC this week with a number of other “top internet firms” to discuss the issue. “It’s of course a very very big deal to do something like this, it is unprecedented for English Wikipedia,” he added.

Narrow Support

SOPA is a piece of legislation designed to assist copyright holders in protecting their intellectual property. It would allow the US government to force anyone with a Domain Name System (DNS) to stop providing name services to alleged pirate sites, but they wouldn’t require any proof.

The legislation does not give any guidance on checking the validity of any takedown requests and has been criticised for bending over backwards to the copyright holders. Critics have argued that one company could make fraudulent claims about another and it has been described as an “act that would break the internet.”

SOPA is even unpopular with the Business Software Alliance, an anti-piracy group which represents Intel, Adobe, Apple and Intel among others.