Wikipedia to go dark on 18 January
The Wikimedia Foundation has officially announced that it will join a growing list of sites that will "go dark" in protest against proposed legislation in the United States. In what it calls "an unprecedented decision" by the community, the non-profit organisation confirmed that it will blackout the English version of the Wikipedia online encyclopedia for 24 hours on Wednesday 18 January 2012 from 05:00 GMT.
The announcement follows a tweet by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales in which he said "Wikipedia protesting bad law on Wednesday!" The proposed legislation in question is the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), also known as House Bill 3261 or H.R. 3261, and the PROTECT IP Act (Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011), aka Senate Bill 968 or S. 968. This legislation is intended to prevent online piracy, but those opposing the proposals believe that the legislation will be used to censor the internet and endanger free speech.
In an open letter, Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Sue Gardner said that, if passed, the proposed laws "would seriously damage the free and open Internet, including Wikipedia". Discussing the decision to make the blackout a global action, rather than just affecting users in the US, Gardner said, "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. Our concern extends beyond SOPA and PIPA: they are just part of the problem. We want the Internet to remain free and open, everywhere, for everyone."
According to Wales, the non-English language versions of the site "will make their own decisions", saying that the German language Wikipedia, for example, will remain online and run a banner on the site. Other sites that have announced plans to go dark on Thursday include the Imgur online image hosting service and Reddit, a social news web site.