Wikipedia is planning a total blackout of the site, one of the best known and most popular on the Web, in order to protest SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act).
SOPA in a nutshell: This is a bill that hands the Department of Justice and copyright holders heightened powers to shut down websites accused of facilitating copyright infringement. Search engines would be barred from linking to the sites in question, ISPs would be required to block access to the sites in question, and Paypal and the like would be prevented from doing business with the sites in question.
The biggest problem with SOPA is the number of websites it potentially affects. Any site which has even the most tentative link to copyright infringement could be taken offline. Which would include any technology site which has linked to torrent sites, Wikipedia, YouTube, even Google itself. Which makes it scary stuff.
This has prompted various mainstream tech companies, and almost all Web companies, to come out in opposition to SOPA. Rather than just give vocal assurances Wikipedia is against it, Jimmy Wales has floated the idea of actively opposing it by blanking out all Wikipedia pages for a certain period of time.
According to TorrentFreak, Wales reached out to the wider Wikipedia community to guage opinion on the plan. He cited a similar protest which take place on the Italian Wikipedia, saying:
A few months ago, the Italian Wikipedia community made a decision to blank all of Italian Wikipedia for a short period in order to protest a law which would infringe on their editorial independence. The Italian Parliament backed down immediately. 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 [the Senate] on a bit of a fast track.
I may be attending a meeting at the White House on Monday along with executives from many other top Internet firms, and 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.
The vast majority of respondents agree with Wales’ stance. However, some would rather Wikipedia remain neutral in political situations. I would argue this bill has risen above the level of mere politics. Anyone who values a working, free Internet needs to oppose SOPA before it’s too late. And if Wikipedia can actively help in that cause then it should so.