Tomorrow, 18th January 2012, Wikipedia will go offline for the day. This is in protest at proposed American legislation which, if enacted, is able and liable to damage the integrity and freedom of the Internet. The following statement is taken (without permission) from the Wikipedia site.
Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that has been developed by tens of thousands of volunteers from all over the world over the last 11 years. Together, we have created millions of articles containing billions of facts, referenced to hundreds of thousands of sources from around the world. We have grown to be one of the most frequently accessed websites in the world. Wikipedians are fiercely proud and protective of our ability to freely share knowledge with the rest of the world, as the first of 846 related projects in 280 languages working under the umbrella of the Wikimedia Foundation.
In late 2011, the United States Congress proposed two legislative bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), which legal scholars and others have advised have the potential to significantly change the way that information can be shared through the Internet. It is the opinion of the English Wikipedia community that both of these bills, if passed, would be devastating to the free and open web.
Over the course of the past 72 hours, over 1800 Wikipedians have joined together to discuss proposed actions that the community might wish to take against SOPA and PIPA. This is by far the largest level of participation in a community discussion ever seen on Wikipedia, which illustrates the level of concern that Wikipedians feel about this proposed legislation. The overwhelming majority of participants support community action to encourage greater public action in response to these two bills. Of the proposals considered by Wikipedians, those that would result in a “blackout” of the English Wikipedia, in concert with similar blackouts on other websites opposed to SOPA and PIPA, received the strongest support.
On careful review of this discussion, the closing administrators note the broad-based support for action from Wikipedians around the world, not just from within the United States. The primary objection to a global blackout came from those who preferred that the blackout be limited to readers from the United States, with the rest of the world seeing a simple banner notice instead. We also noted that roughly 55% of those supporting a blackout preferred that it be a global one, with many pointing to concerns about similar legislation in other nations. For example, one British editor stated “American law is America’s business, but law that affects Wikipedia worldwide is an issue of worldwide interest“, a principle we felt had considerable support.
Therefore, on behalf of the English Wikipedia community, the Wikimedia Foundation is asked to allocate resources and assist the community in blacking out the project globally for 24 hours starting at 05:00 UTC on January 18, 2012, or at another time as determined by the Wikimedia Foundation. This should be carried out while respecting technical limitations of the underlying software, and should specifically prevent editing wherever possible. Provisions for emergency access to the site should be included in the blackout software. In order to assist our readers and the community at large to educate themselves about SOPA and PIPA, these articles and those closely related to them will remain accessible for reading purposes if possible. Wikipedians are urged to work with WMF staff to develop effective messaging for the “blackout screens” that directs readers to suitable online resources. Sister projects, such as the German and Italian Wikipedias and Wikimedia Commons, have indicated an intention to support the same principles with banners on those sites, and the support of other projects is welcome and appreciated.
Although the Internet came about through the weapons race of the last century, it was for many years a place of free speech for individuals. It still is, for the most part, but corporate media and other commercial and governmental elements appear to be seeking to pwn or at least control the data. If America passes this legislation it is entirely conceivable that ‘annoying’ publishers and their ISP’s might be sanctioned and barred from free expression. I’m no expert, by the way, I’m just reading links and stuff. Feel free to call me paranoid. I’m not a file sharer either, nor a downloader of ‘free’ software that isn’t really free. But I have noticed the gradual … refocusing … of news and the occasional lack of interest by the mainstream media in newsworthy stories. I’ve been using the Internet since the late eighties and the web since it appeared, and I’ve seen the changes. I can’t stop the tide, but Wiki might at least draw attention to the shifting sand…