Wikipedia, Craigslist, other sites go black in SOPA protest
Following through on their threats to shut down for a day over controversial proposed anti-piracy legislation, a coalition of websites including the hugely popular user-generated encyclopedia Wikipedia went black as midnight struck the East Coast.
Visitors to English-language pages on Wikipedia, regularly ranked as one of the five most popular sites on the Internet, with an estimated 2.7 billion monthly pageviews in the U.S., instead found only a headline stating "Imagine a World Without Free Knowledge." Stating that the proposed SOPA and PIPA anti-piracy bills "could fatally damage the free and open internet," the message said Wikipedia would be blacked out for 24 hours and asked visitors to contact their congressional representatives, providing a search box to look them up by ZIP code.
Other sites that shut down and displayed similar language included classified listings site Craigslist and technology blog BoingBoing, while a note on the social news website Reddit said it would begin its blackout at 8 a.m. Eastern time. Hundreds of other websites were scheduled to go dark, according to SOPAStrike.com.
Google, meanwhile, didn't shut down but blacked out the logo on its home page and featured a message that said "Tell Congress: Please don't censor the Web!"
Opponents have argued that SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, and the similar U.S. Senate legislation PIPA, the Protect Intellectual Property Act, may be an attempt to stop international piracy of intellectual property but amount to censorship because they don't have proper protections for sites unfairly accused of enabling piracy and would "break the Internet" in the way the legislation blocks them.
Supporters, who believe the laws are needed to stop "rogue" websites that make it possible for Web surfers to illegally download or stream movies and television shows, went after organizers of Wednesday's Internet blackout, demonstrating the ongoing public battle between large media and technology companies.
"[S]ome technology business interests are resorting to stunts that punish their users or turn them into their corporate pawns, rather than coming to the table to find solutions to a problem that all now seem to agree is very real and damaging," Motion Picture Assn. of America Chairman Chris Dodd wrote in a blog post.
On Twitter, News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch wrote, "Nonsense argument about danger to Internet. How about Google, others blocking porn, hate speech, etc? Internet hurt?"
The Obama administration this weekend announced its objections to SOPA and PIPA in their current forms, meaning it's unlikely the bills will be passed soon. Supporters continue to hope, however, that a compromise can be reached.
— Ben Fritz
Photo: Screen shot of Google's home page protesting SOPA and PIPA.