Wikipedia ponders total blackout ahead of SOPA

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Wikipedia could have a total “blackout” – by blanking out every single page in the online encyclopedia, even the 1 million pages in the English version – as a protest to the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act, which is heading to the US Senate.

The bill, which is designed to safeguard intellectual property through controversial means needs to pass the Senate Judiciary Committee before it will head to the full Senate for passage. It is controversial because of how it will safeguard these: making content providers responsible for the content uploaded, and DNS blocking and filtering.

Yes, the very two provisions have large ramifications. The Electronics Frontier Foundation believe it could kill open source. As well, realistically, there is no way to have content providers like YouTube to make sure that all videos are not copyright infringing – and it could impact sites internationally like Dailymotion from France as ISPs will be breaking the law if they do not block the site.

Yes, the land of internet freedoms is turning to Chinese and Iranian tactics of internet censorship in order to protect the rights of Hollywood, who are so stubborn that they can’t seem to embrace the internet.

Time is not on our side here.Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia

Jimmy Wales, the founder, wrote on Wikipedia that he is pondering the idea of a total blackout, based on the Italian Wikipedia’s own blackout on a similar law in Italy that could infringe on its “editorial independence”. It was successful in getting the law dropped by the Italian Parliament.

He has asked the community for either a simple objection or approval of the idea before going ahead.

“My own view is that a community strike was very powerful and successful in Italy and could be even more powerful in this case,” he wrote. “It’s of course a very very big deal to do something like this, it is unprecedented for English Wikipedia.”

He also hints a global blackout, which could mean that everyone’s affected.

“One possible view is that because the law would seriously impact the functioning of Wikipedia for everyone, a global strike of at least the English Wikipedia would put the maximum pressure on the US government.”

Responses have been largely supportive, but those opposing highlighting it could breach Wikipedia’s self-imposed neutrality, especially on political issues. Some have also offered alternative solutions to a protest against the bill as a blackout isn’t ideal.

Wales updated users on the progress, saying that he sees the OPEN Act – backed by Google and Facebook – is a viable alternative to the controversial SOPA. However…

“Apparently the supporters of SOPA are going to try to ram it quickly through the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, and that will make it harder to stop and/or significantly improve the bill before it goes to a full vote,” he wrote in his update.

“Time is not on our side here.”