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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Wikipedia, Google Go Black to Protest SOPA

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Wikipedia founder Jimmy WalesWikipedia and other popular websites converted their homepages into virtual protest banners early Wednesday as part of an effort to stop Internet piracy legislation that is being considered by the U.S. Congress The online encyclopedia, the tenth most popular website in the U.S., shut down most of its English-language services and replaced its familiar white and gray design with a black homepage featuring information about the bills. Known as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), the legislation—backed by major American media companies—would allow the Justice Department to seek a court order requiring U.S. search engines to scrub certain results from the sites, among other antipiracy measures. "This bill is poorly constructed, quite dangerous and won't actually address the real problem of piracy," said Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia, in an interview. "Internet policy shouldn't be set by Hollywood." Wikipedia, run by the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation, is expected to be joined over the day in a blackout protest by thousands of other, mostly smaller websites including Reddit Inc. and the humor sites run by Cheezburger Inc The protest was joined, too, by search giant Google Inc., which didn't shut down its site, but around midnight covered most of the logo on its U.S. homepage with a black box, and added a link asking users to tell Congress "please don't censor the web." Craigslist Inc., the popular classifieds site, also put up a black homepage that offered information about the laws and scolded "corporate paymasters" to "keep those clammy hands off the Internet!" Mr. Wales of Wikimedia said he first proposed the idea of temporarily turning off Wikipedia as a protest in December, and it came into fruition after weeks of discussion by the site's volunteer editors. "The community got together and had a huge conversation and decided we needed to take a stand," said Mr. Wales.  The move to shut the site for a day was designed to make Congress hear a different point of view on the issue, said Mr. Wales. "To date, they've only really heard from professional lobbyists and Hollywood, and haven't heard from people about how they use the Internet and why it should remain the way it is," said Mr. Wales. But in turning off its site, the nonprofit Wikipedia is also taking up the mantle of a cause that is tied to the business interests of major tech firms. "Our view is that Google is big enough to look out for themselves," said Mr. Wales. "Our interest is really about the fundamental structure of the Internet." He said he wasn't certain how the bills, if passed, might affect Wikipedia. "We could be barred from linking to websites that are classified as foreign infringing sites, and that raises quite obviously a lot of very deep First Amendment issues." The Wikipedia blackout affects its English-language site for users around the world, but the versions in other languages and versions formatted for mobile phones continue to operate.   Source : http://online.wsj.com/

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