The Wikipedia community has chosen to close down the site's English version for 24 hours today (18 Jnauray 2012), in a protest against growing censorship.
The unprecedented decision by the shared owners of the world's largest 'open source' site has been taken after intense discussion, and in response to proposed legislation in the United States — the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the US House of Representatives, and PROTECTIP (PIPA) in the US Senate.
If passed, say critics, this legislation will harm the free and open Internet and bring about new tools for censorship of international websites inside the United States.
Boing Boing iand other sites have also gone offline today in solidarity. The controversial US legislation has turned into an all-out war between Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Media companies back it, while the techs are resolutely opposed.
"Imagine a World Without Free Knowledge," a simple message in white letters on a black and grey background reads on Wikipedia English this morning.
Wikipedia administrators confirmed their decision on the afternoon of Monday 16 January in a public statement (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:SOPA_initiative/Action#Summary_an...).
Some 2,500 Wikipedians joined together earlier this week to discuss proposed actions that the community might wish to take against SOPA and PIPA.
This is by far the largest level of participation in a community discussion ever seen on Wikipedia, which illustrates the level of concern that those involved feel about this proposed legislation.
In a statement, they declared: "The overwhelming majority of participants support community action to encourage greater public action in response to these two bills. Of the proposals considered by Wikipedians, those that would result in a "blackout" of the English Wikipedia, in concert with similar blackouts on other websites opposed to SOPA and PIPA, received the strongest support."
“Today Wikipedians from around the world have spoken about their opposition to this destructive legislation," said Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia.
He continued: "This is an extraordinary action for our community to take - and while we regret having to prevent the world from having access to Wikipedia for even a second, we simply cannot ignore the fact that SOPA and PIPA endanger free speech both in the United States and abroad, and set a frightening precedent of Internet censorship for the world."
Today's statement added: "We urge Wikipedia readers to make your voices heard. If you live in the United States, find your elected representative in Washington (https://www.eff.org/sopacall). If you live outside the United States, contact your State Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs or similar branch of government. Tell them you oppose SOPA and PIPA, and want the internet to remain open and free."
The Wikimedia Foundation is the non-profit organisation that operates Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. According to comScore Media Metrix, Wikipedia and the other projects operated by the Wikimedia Foundation receive more than 474 million unique visitors per month, making them the fifth-most popular web property world-wide (comScore, November 2011).
Available in 282 languages, Wikipedia contains more than 20 million articles contributed by a global volunteer community of more than 100,000 people. Based in San Francisco, California, the Wikimedia Foundation is an audited, 501(c)(3) charity that is funded primarily through donations and grants.