Wikipedia Blackout January 18: 5 Things to Know About the SOPA, PIPA Protest

Published January 17, 2012

| I.B. Times

Wikipedia will initiate a blackout on Wednesday, Jan. 18, in protest of the anti-piracy bills SOPA and PIPA. SOPA and PIPA are two Congressional bills meant to halt the illegal copying and sharing of movies and music on the Internet, among other aims. However, major Internet organizations -- such as Wikipedia, Reddit and Boing Boing -- claim the bills will hinder their operations and are ready to protest.

Wikipedia, Reddit, Boing Boing and Anonymous will go dark Wednesday in condemnation of SOPA and PIPA. "This is going to be wow," Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, said on Twitter. "I hope Wikipedia will melt phone systems in Washington on Wednesday. Tell everyone you know!"

"If you want an Internet where human rights, free speech and the rule of law are not subordinated to the entertainment industry's profits, I hope you'll join us," said Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing.

Even gargantuan Internet companies like Facebook, Google, Twitter and Tumblr have denounced the bills.

PIPA, the Protect IP Act, and SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, however, have received support from the music and film industries.

"More than 2.2 million hard-working, middle-class people in all 50 states depend on the entertainment industry for their jobs and many millions more work in other industries that rely on intellectual property," Michael O'Leary of the Motion Picture Association of America said in a statement. "For all these workers and their families, online content and counterfeiting by these foreign sites mean declining incomes, lost jobs and reduced health and retirement benefits."

Over the weekend, the White House hinted at toning down the two bills after the influx of protest.

"While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet," wrote three White House managers, including Aneesh Chopra, the U.S. Chief Technology Officer.

So what do you need to know about the Wikipedia Blackout?

Wikipedia Will Go Dark for 24 Hours

Wikipedia will go dark for 24 hours. The Web site will shut down its English-language site beginning at 05:00 UTC on Wednesday, Jan. 18. Read the official statement from Wikipedia here.  

Wikipedia is a hugely popular site, particularly amongst students. On Tuesday, founder Jimmy Wales highlighted this importance.

"Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed, MLK on Wednesday, Wikipedia demands," Wales said via Twitter Monday, on Martin Luther King Day. He told students: "Student warning! Do your homework early. Wikipedia protesting bad law on Wednesday! #sopa."

The official statement notes the impact the bill could have on the Internet as a free entity. 

"Today Wikipedians from around the world have spoken about their opposition to this destructive legislation," said Wales in the official statement. "This is an extraordinary action for our community to take - and while we regret having to prevent the world from having access to Wikipedia for even a second, we simply cannot ignore the fact that SOPA and PIPA endanger free speech both in the United States and abroad, and set a frightening precedent of Internet censorship for the world."

Reddit Will Go Dark for 12 Hours

Reddit, the a "crowd-curated" information sharing forum, will go dark for 12 hours on Wednesday, Jan. 18, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST (1300-0100 UTC).

"We've seen some amazing activism organized by redditors at /r/sopa and across the reddit community at large. You have made a difference in this fight; and as we near the next stage, and after much thought, talking with experts, and hearing the overwhelming voices from the reddit community, we have decided that we will be blacking out reddit," reads the official statement.

Instead of publishing its typical content, Reddit will circulate anti-PIPA/SOPA information on how the legislation will hinder sites like Reddit, provide links to resources to learn more and suggest how citizens can take action.

Other, possibly lesser-known sites have also joined the anti-PIPA/SOPA coalition and will also go dark Wednesday. Users on Reddit compiled a list of sites that will enact a blackout, including: all Cheezeburger sites, Explosm, Red 5 Studios, CryptoCat, FreakOutNation, Major League Gaming, RageMaker, SkyTemple and more. Click here to view the thread.

Blackout Has Support from Internet Titans

Not only are Wikipedia, Reddit, Boing Boing and Anonymous against PIPA/SOPA. Internet titans have also voiced opposition.  

"There isn't one technology company or venture capitalist who supports these bills," Markham Erickson, the executive director of NetCoalition, a trade group representing Google, eBay and others, told ABC News.

"An 'Internet blackout' would obviously be both drastic and unprecedented," NetCoalition said in a statement. "We hope that the Senate will cancel its scheduled vote on PIPA so that we can get back to working with members on how to address the concerns raised by the MPAA [Motion Picture Association of America] and others without threatening our nation's security or future innovation and jobs."

Tumblr Encourages Calling House Representatives, Offers Talking Points

Tumblr, a microblogging platform and social media networking site, has been encouraging activism since November. That month, the Web site facilitated 87,834 individuals to call their representatives with a total of 1,293 hours of talking time in protest of the PIPA/SOPA bills.

Tumblr still offers a form that will connect you to your House Representative and offer talking points on how to dispute the legislation. Click here to access this.

SOPA Could Be Shelved

On Monday, California congressman Darrell Issa, an opponent of SOPA, stated that he had been told by House majority leader Eric Cantor that no vote on SOPA will transpire "unless there is consensus on the bill," shelving the legislation until further notice. This move "effectively scuppers" SOPA, noted the Guardian.

PIPA, derogatorily known as the e-Parasite bill, comes to vote on Jan. 24. Issa stated, "While I remain concerned about Senate action on the Protect IP Act, I am confident that flawed legislation will not be taken up by this House."

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