On January 18th, 2012 Wikipedia will stage its first ever political protest by blacking out in response to the Stop Online Piracy and Protect IP Acts.
In an open letter published earlier today,Wikimedia Foundation Director Sue Gardner announced the knowledge giant’s decision to take a step away from it’s strictly neutral political stance to actively protest the two bills that await Senate and House debates scheduled for later this month:
It is the opinion of the English Wikipedia community that both of these bills, if passed, would be devastating to the free and open web.
Over the course of the past 72 hours, over 1800 Wikipedians have joined together to discuss proposed actions that the community might wish to take against SOPA and PIPA.
(…) although Wikipedia’s articles are neutral, its existence is not.
Notably, while SOPA and PIPA are American legislations, Wikipedia’s black out will be global. Responding to any potential criticism on these grounds, Sandberg argued that the:
reality is that we don’t think SOPA is going away, and PIPA is still quite active. Moreover, SOPA and PIPA are just indicators of a much broader problem. All around the world, we’re seeing the development of legislation intended to fight online piracy, and regulate the Internet in other ways, that hurt online freedoms. Our concern extends beyond SOPA and PIPA: they are just part of the problem. We want the Internet to remain free and open, everywhere, for everyone.
That may well be the case, and Wikipedia has definitely taken a definitive step to garner the attention of the millions of passive Internet users who stand to lose should either of the bills come to pass. What remains to be seen is whether blackouts become the last and only mouthpiece for the online resource that has become an indispensable tool for people the world over. Meanwhile, the Stanford community is not far behind the anti-SOPA effort, with Google’s Derek Slater scheduled to speak to undergraduates about both bills on Wednesday.