Wikipedia to black out Wednesday in protest

Wikipedia to black out Wednesday in protest

January 16, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
The world's most popular encyclopedia is shutting down in protest. Wikipedia is joining other tech companies to oppose an anti-piracy bill under consideration in Congress. ABC7 spoke to Jimmy Wales, the founder of the community-sourced information site, over the phone.

Wikipedia will black out its website for at least one day. It's not the first site to announce plans to shut down, but it is the most well-known.

Don't say you haven't been warned. In black and white, Wikipedia is alerting its users that the site will go dark on Wednesday.

"I have a message to the users of Wikipedia which are approximately 25 million users a day in America alone, do your homework before midnight," said Wales.

Wikipedia is shutting down to protest a bill going through Congress called SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act. The bill is intended to curtail copyright violations on the Internet, but those in the technology industry say it could give courts the power to take down a website that links pirated material hosted in a foreign country.

"So this could interfere with the free speech rights of companies like Google to link to websites that are accused of copyright violations, so even though Google may not have done anything wrong, simply linking to it could be a violation of this law," said Larry Magid, a technology industry analyst.

But the media companies behind the bill have a different take. Over the weekend, Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) tweeted, "Piracy leader is Google who streams movies free, sells [advertisements] around them. No wonder pouring millions into lobbying."

Despite that sentiment, Wikipedia isn't backing down. Neither is Reddit or Boing Boing -- other sites that plan to shut down on Wednesday.

"This is the land of the free and the home of the brave and without the tech industry, without this industry that drives America's economy today, that will cease to exist," said Whales.

Wales wouldn't say exactly how long the site will be shut down, but he said anywhere from 24 to 48 hours.