Wikipedia’s English-language website has gone dark at the start of a 24-hour protest against proposed anti-piracy legislation in the US. Around 7,000 other websites, including Boing Boing and Reddit, are also joining the protest.
The websites are protesting against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), two bills currently being debated in the House and Senate respectively and which many fear could fundamentally alter the nature of the Internet – and not in a good way. Supporters of the proposed laws include many music and movie companies who believe they’re needed to prevent online theft of its products.
At midnight ET, Wikipedia replaced its usual homepage with a predominantly black design together with a short body of text, which read:
“Imagine a world without free knowledge. For over a decade, we have spent millions of hours building the largest encyclopedia in human history. Right now, the U.S. Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open Internet. For 24 hours, to raise awareness, we are blacking out Wikipedia.”
Boing Boing also went offline at midnight ET, saying the proposed legislation would “unmake the Web.” Its homepage contained the following statement:
“Boing Boing is offline today, because the US Senate is considering legislation that would certainly kill us forever. The legislation is called the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), and would put us in legal jeopardy if we linked to a site anywhere online that had any links to copyright infringement.”
It continued: “This would unmake the Web, just as proposed in the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). We don’t want that world. If you don’t want it either, visit AmericanCensorship.org for instructions on contacting your Senator. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has more information on this and other issues central to your freedom online.”
Web giant Google also joined the protest, though remained online. On its Google.com page it added a single line of text: “Tell Congress: Please don’t censor the Web!” providing a link for further information. The company said it believed that if the bills became law they would “censor the Internet and slow economic growth in the US.”
Other sites, such as Reddit, will go offline for 12 hours, beginning at 8am ET, Wednesday.