Wikipedia, Reddit, Other Sites Blackout Over SOPA

January 18, 2012 Updated: April 8, 2013

Mozilla, WordPress, MoveOn, and TwitPic are joining Wikipedia and Reddit, as well as other sites, in joining the protest against controversial antipiracy legislation.

Search giant Google also made plans to protest against the bill, but ruled out taking its multitude of websites down.

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which was introduced in the House, and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), introduced in the Senate, have received a heavy wave of criticism, with many members of the technology industry calling them draconian. Among others, tech giants such as Facebook and Google say they would stifle innovation, allow censorship, and disrupt the architecture of the Internet itself.

 The White House, in a statement last week, also said it was against the two bills. Proponents of the bill include the recording industry, the film industry, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and a number of copyright holders.

With Wikipedia, around 800 people have been debating whether or not to take down the site on Wednesday for 24 hours, but an announcement from founder Jimmy Wales seemed to end the discussion. Via his Twitter account, Wales said the move “is a decision of the Wikipedia community.”

“Student warning! Do your homework early. Wikipedia protesting bad law on Wednesday!” Wales jokingly added.

Wikipedia, which according to website-ranker Alexa is the sixth-most popular site on the Internet, will go dark from midnight Eastern time on Tuesday and will stay dark until midnight on Wednesday.

“This will be the first time the English Wikipedia has ever staged a public protest of this nature, and it’s a decision that wasn’t lightly made,” the company said in a statement.

Twitter was filled with comments from people who were worried or made jokes about the situation.

“Wikipedia goes down at midnight. How are we supposed to find out about stuff with only millions of other websites on the Internet?” said Twitter user and comedian Damien Fahey.

Reddit was one of the first major websites to announce it was going offline on Wednesday.

“We wouldn’t do this if we didn’t believe this legislation and the forces behind it were a serious threat to reddit and the Internet as we know it,” it said in a blog posting last week.

Adding further, it said that “blacking out reddit is a hard choice, but we feel focusing on a day of action is the best way we can amplify the voice of the community.”

Critics of the bill have called on Google and Facebook to join the Wikipedia and Reddit blackout, which appears unlikely.

 

Google, in a statement to several media outlets, said it would add a message to its widely used front page regarding SOPA.

“Like many businesses, entrepreneurs, and Web users, we oppose these bills because there are smart, targeted ways to shut down foreign rogue websites without asking American companies to censor the Internet,” a Google representative told CNET. “So tomorrow we will be joining many other tech companies to highlight this issue on our U.S. home page.”

On Wednesday, there will also be global SOPA and PIPA protests, including a rally in New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and in other cities, according to the Hackers and Founders group.

House Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, a Republican, on Friday removed a key point of contention from the bill, saying that, “After consultation with industry groups across the country, I feel we should remove” DNS blocking.

“We will continue to look for ways,” Smith added, “to ensure that foreign websites cannot sell and distribute illegal content to U.S. consumers.”

Smith maintained that much of the bill is necessary to be set in motion to cut off revenue to foreign sites that distribute pirated data and infringe on copyrights.

“Congress cannot stand by and do nothing while some of America’s most profitable and productive industries are under attack,” Smith added.