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Wikipedia to shut down Wednesday in SOPA protest

Anger grows against online-piracy bill

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Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has announced that the "encyclopedia anyone can edit" will go dark this Wednesday in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act, aka SOPA, that's dividing Washington DC – not to mention pitting online content providers against ISPs, search-engine sites, civil libertarians, and others.

Wales tweeted on Monday that the English-language version of Wikipedia would go down at midnight this Wednesday, Eastern standard time (5am in the UK), and come back up in 24 hours.

Jimmy Wales tweets warning to students regarding anti-SOPA Wikipedia blackout

The ever-thoughtful Jimmy Wales tweets advice to the English-speaking students of the world

According to another Wales tweet, the web-stats service ComScore "estimates the English Wikipedia receives 25 million average daily visitors globally" – 25 million users who will be without its services during the SOPA-protest outage.

In still another tweet, Wales said that the goal of the protest "is to melt switchboards! :-)", presumably those of such SOPA promoters as Representatives Lamar Smith (R-TX), John Conyers (D-MI), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).

Not all Republican lawmakers are pro-SOPA, by the way. As The Reg reported last week, 11-year House Judiciary Committee member Darrell Issa (R-CA) told a "Congress Talks Tech Policy" panel at CES that "The bottom line is you've got to throw [SOPA] away."

The heat is rising in the SOPA debate. Over the weekend, for example, three top Obama-administration officials issued a statement that said, in part, "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."

Presumably at least partially in response to the White House's statement – and a possible Obama veto – SOPA author Smith has dropped the DNS-blocking provision of the controvertial bill – an action also taken by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), sponsor of the Senate's equivalent, the PROTECT IP* Act.

At least one content provider, the ever-irascible Rupert Murdoch, was less than pleased with the Obama administration's stated stance, huffing in a tweet that "Obama has thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery."

And now Wikipedia, one of the web's 800-pound gorillas, has thrown in its lot with other SOPA protesters, including Reddit, which announced last Tuesday that it will go dark this Wednesday from 8am until 8pm Eastern standard time.

Wales notes that the lights-out move was "a community decision at Wikipedia" – but added that there is "still time to vote," pointing Wikians to his site's Wikipedia:SOPA initiative/Action page, where the debate continues. ®

* Bootnote

Following the silly fad of giving bills acronymic monikers, the PROTECT IP Act's full name is "Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act".

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