Wikipedia and several other sites including Reddit and Boing-Boing will go dark on Wednesday as a form of protest. What they’re protesting is the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).
Critics of the act say that it supports wholesale censorship with no recourse for even accidental offenders. At the root is the concept that the government can block any website that carries pirated materials. Obviously, this would be a big problem for eBay, YouTube, Facebook, pretty much any website that allows users to upload content.
How interesting is it, that those sites aren’t the ones going dark on Wednesday. Wikipedia is leading the charge. The site that is so known for delivering misinformation that teachers have banned it as a cite-able source. Granted, the reliability of the site has improved over the years but it’s still the most plagiarized site for high school papers. Kind of ironic that those students won’t be able to access the site on Wednesday. I can already hear the students begging teachers for an extended deadline on those book reports and term papers.
Then here’s Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales posting on Twitter:
“Student warning! Do your homework early. Wikipedia protesting bad law on Wednesday!#sopa.”
And then, taking advantage of Martin Luther King Day:
And finally, here’s a quote from the Wikipedia release on the topic:
“Today Wikipedians from around the world have spoken about their opposition to this destructive legislation,” said Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia. “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.”
It’s all rather theatrical and what’s to be gained? Maybe some people will hit the dark site, understand what’s happening and write their Congressman a letter of complaint. Then what?
How about some answers instead of just saying this won’t work? The White House has already stated that the bill won’t move forward in its current form and DNS blocking is getting taken off the table.
Now, the other side of the coin. From the official White House response:
Washington needs to hear your best ideas about how to clamp down on rogue websites and other criminals who make money off the creative efforts of American artists and rights holders. We should all be committed to working with all interested constituencies to develop new legal tools to protect global intellectual property rights without jeopardizing the openness of the Internet. Our hope is that you will bring enthusiasm and know-how to this important challenge.
The internet is full of smart, creative, innovative people. Surely we can come up with a better way to handle our disagreements than packing up your toys and going home.