The community-based encyclopedia said in a statement that the ‘blackout’ was a decision made based on proposed legislation in the US congress to censor online pirated content, The Herald Sun reports.
“If passed, this legislation will harm the free and open internet and bring about new tools for censorship of international websites inside the United States,” the Wikimedia foundation said.
The proposed laws will reduce the sales of pirated US products internationally, but Wikimedia and other sites like Google, Facebook and Reddit argue that the move will threaten the online industry’s ‘livelihood’, with Google planning to show their opposition to the legislation by posting a protest link on its homepage. Other sites have pledged to follow Wikipedia’s lead by scheduling their own site shut downs in protest.
“Like many businesses, entrepreneurs and web users, we oppose these bills because there are smart, targeted ways to shut down foreign rogue websites without asking American companies to censor the internet,” a Google spokesperson said, as reported by the Herald Sun.
“We will be joining many other tech companies to highlight this issue on our US home page.”
Those in support of the censorship, including the film and music industries, claim that the bill is needed in order to stop illegal product sales and preserve legitimate industry jobs.
Wikipedia’s protest has been weeks in the making, with discussion amongst its members as to what kind of action would be most effective – it was decided that the blackout would have the most impact.
Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, was the first person to first announce the event via his Twitter account earlier this week, saying the legislation is damaging to the concept of a free, open and secure web.
“The whole thing is just a poorly designed mess,” Wales told The Associated Press.
Wikipedia is also urging its readers to contact US members of congress to protest the bill.
“I am personally asking everyone who cares about freedom and openness on the internet to contact their senators and representative,” Wales said. “The internet is a powerfully effective tool for the public to organise and have their voices heard.”
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