Wikipedia Considering Blackout to Oppose SOPA

Does a blank Wikipedia send a strong message?

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Wikipedia Considering Blackout to Oppose SOPA
[ Social Media]

While some members of the entertainment industry believe that without the help of SOPA, the future of content distribution is in doubt, other members of the tech industry have a different perspective. In fact, a number of tech giants are taking the exact opposite approach of their entertainment industry counterparts. That is, while they don’t support the idea of piracy, they do not approve of how SOPA goes about policing the web’s content.

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales is considering a site-wide “blank out” of Wikipedia’s pages. Is this approach too extreme or is Wales correct in his anti-SOPA stance. Thoughts? Reactions? Share them in the comments.

Consider NBC Universal’s approach, one that includes an edict of support SOPA or we’ll have serious issues distributing content from those who don’t. That’s right, NBC threatened their content suppliers with a “support SOPA or else” threat, representing a position that’s similar to blackmail. Apparently that’s business as usual in the corporate world, but there is hope. As indicated, not every tech industry giant is falling in step with SOPA/PIPA, including such big names like Google, Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo, companies that are diametrically opposed to how SOPA works.

Now, you can add Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales to the anti-SOPA pile. Wales and Wikipedia are so against the ideas set forth by SOPA — mainly, the censorship aspect — they are considering blacking Wikipedia out as a method of protest; and when I say “blacking out,” I mean turning all of the Wikipedia pages blank, as in, no content, in an effort to show just how how much Wikipedia opposes the idea of censorship.

To facilitate his idea, Wales posted a suggestion on his User Talk Wikipedia page, and it, in no uncertain terms, lays out Wales’ position. His statement is below in blockquote form, and he invites other Wikipedia members and users to respond to his makeshift poll:

A few months ago, the Italian Wikipedia community made a decision to blank all of Italian Wikipedia for a short period in order to protest a law which would infringe on their editorial independence. The Italian Parliament backed down immediately. As Wikipedians may or may not be aware, a much worse law going under the misleading title of “Stop Online Piracy Act’ is working its way through Congress on a bit of a fast track.

I may be attending a meeting at the White House on Monday (pending confirmation on a couple of fronts) along with executives from many other top Internet firms, and I thought this would be a good time to take a quick reading of the community feeling on this issue. My own view is that a community strike was very powerful and successful in Italy and could be even more powerful in this case.

There are obviously many questions about whether the strike should be geotargetted (US-only), etc. (One possible view is that because the law would seriously impact the functioning of Wikipedia for everyone, a global strike of at least the English Wikipedia would put the maximum pressure on the US government.) At the same time, it’s of course a very very big deal to do something like this, it is unprecedented for English Wikipedia.

Preceding unsigned comment added by Jimbo Wales… 07:42, 10 December 2011‎

While a great deal of the responses are of the “Support” or “Firmly Support,” there are a number who of users who are opposed to the way Wikipedia is planning on protesting SOPA; although, many who opposed Wales’ postion did so because they don’t want Wikipedia getting involved in political issues.

An example:

Oppose, really bad idea. Blanking the site for a political purpose, even one that helps Wiki, is using power over content for advocacy. It’s in the same class as deleting an article that might help a candidate or cause some subset of us don’t like. Yes, not as egrigious…but in the same class. (And there will be some subset of Wikipedians that support SOPA. Heck, I hear they even let Republicans edit this site, occasionally.)

Regarding the blanking of Wikipedia pages, some on Twitter are thinking of the all the students out there who will suffer without it:

Students sobbing? MT @boraz: RT @jayrosen_nyu: What do you think? Wikipedia to blank pges to protest SOPA http://t.co/IGhUKhHj 38 minutes ago via HootSuite · powered by @socialditto

You’ll also find those who agree with Wales’ approach:

Not a huge fan of Jimmy Wales founder of Wikipedia, but Im glad he is taking a stance on government internet regulation
http://t.co/PRj1k0Qa 1 hour ago via web · powered by @socialditto

Here’s an interesting query about SOPA, courtesy of Google’s Matt Cutts: Does it violate the First Amendment? According to a Harvard law professor, yes. Yes it does:

Some dude says SOPA violates First Amendment: http://t.co/eJ0gc5ns P.S. He’s a professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard. 11 hours ago via Tweet Button · powered by @socialditto

The link in Cutts’ tweet goes to a 23-page document that discusses the concept. An example of the document’s position:

These concessions go to the heart of the constitutional defect evident on the face of SOPA. Although the problems of online copyright and trademark infringement are genuine,SOPA is an extreme measure that is not narrowly tailored to governmental interests. It is a blunderbuss rather than a properly limited response, and its stiff penalties would significantly endanger legitimate websites and services. Its constitutional defects are not marginal ones that could readily be trimmed in the process of applying and enforcing it in particular cases. Rather,its very existence would dramatically chill protected speech by undermining the openness and free exchange of information at the heart of the Internet. It should not be enacted by Congress.

With that in mind, should Wikipedia blank its pages in protest of SOPA or should they just let the chips fall where they may? Is fighting censorship with censorship really the way to go? Is that too extreme of an approach from Wikipedia or are more protests like this needed?

If Wales’ approach isn’t ideal, what, if anything, should the Wikipedia protest consist of? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Wikipedia Considering Blackout to Oppose SOPA
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  • Pete

    Let em blank the pages. These days, everyone uses wikipedia as a primary source of information. That includes the pro-SOPA sect. Take that away from them and it WILL get their attention. There’s also a certain poetic justice in doing so–the SOPA supporters intend to limit the freedoms of the masses under the guise of paid-content protection, and this virtual strike would take away the free content that the masses provide.

  • http://www.jumbocdinvestments.com/ ChrisCD

    I say do it. And a mass blackout across the web would send an even strong message. Gun Laws don’t make it harder on the criminals, they make it harder for the law abiding. The Patriot Act makes it more difficult for the law abiding. The law breakers just find a way around it. SOPA will do the same thing. The good will be punished, the bad will just find a way around it.

  • Mike Crap


    • val

      heh like that term, mind if i borrow it? heh guess i’m too much of one to come up with an original term.

  • mike p

    I’m no fan of SOPA but am amazed a company like Wikipedia believes they’ve grown so big we couldn’t live without their site. Wikipedia backed the Italian government down by blacking out it’s pages? BS.

    • http://www.mindyourbusines.com Emil Pop

      I live in Italy and I took part in that protest and I can tell you that you are misinformed and malicious, in one word you are one of the sheeple.

      They did it and it worked, period!

      If you have no idea about it, get a bit of reading before making a fool of yourself online!

  • http://www.factpile.com FactPile

    While it’s great that Wikipedia would do this to protest the SOPA act, the problem is, it’s the Internet.

    All I need to do is *gasp* search a bit harder to find whatever information I was hoping to find at Wikipedia.

    If I were a big corp (Like NBC) I would be laughing at this act – it’s not going to hurt their bottom line, and could ultimately damage the users of Wikipedia and their reliance on the ability to get data from them when they want.

    I don’t think it will have ANY impact on the act.

    But, if Facebook and Google decided to turn off their services in protest, THAT would have an impact.

  • Steve Watson

    Won’t do any good. The issue is with Congress and Congress doesn’t give a flaming damn. Have him go on TV and make his point – go to Washington and make his point – but doing almost anything that’s just on the web and Congress won’t get the point. THEY’RE UNPLUGGED COMPLETELY!

  • http://case42.com Dave McClave

    I’m all in favor of ANY information source that refuses to be censored or bought – keeping Wikipedia ad-free is a great example of an un-bought information source. Bravo! Blanking out the content in protest is a GREAT move, and if it hurts, GOOD!!! I use it nearly every day in my work, and it WILL HURT, but I’m still in favor. What kind of citizen says, “go ahead and do whatever you want, Government, just don’t make me uncomfortable…” ??!?! If you’re not fighting, (and I mean getting dirty, uncomfortable, and sacrificing), for your and others’ rights, then you’re forcing someone else to do it for you.

  • http://www.theakurians.com General Bobby Farrell

    I can’t imagine WHY you didn’t call this SOPA poppycrap by it’s correct name!


    Anybody stupid enough to NOT understand that, contact me direct for a fully CENSORABLE reply in the corrrect legal language.

    General Bobby Farrell

  • LC

    Not too extreme at all. Not even extreme enough!

  • http://www.guisemarketing.com Roberta Guise

    One person can make a difference. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales should take a stand against muzzling voices online.

  • http://www.dcvistudios.com Slideri812

    I think that political correctness has ruined this country and allowed corruption and erosion of our civil liberties. Just as NO company should have the right to own my DNA, no company should ever be allowed to partake in social change at the constitutional level.

    Just like in ww2, the overwhelming shock of Nag & Her brought the war to an end, certian media companies and our corrupt politicians need a reality check.

    I say blank Wikipedia, Twitter and Facebook all at the same time. SOPA is a bomb they are trying to set off. Neutralize it with a bigger bomb, a much much bigger bomb so they will forever think real hard before going there again.

    How much money would they loose in one day if Yahoo was blank for 24hrs? Or Google? Stock market take a plunge? Far more then they loose to piracy now.

    And seriously, let them start by policing their own who are so often the sources of these materials making it into the publics hands prematurely.

    Corporate benevolence should always be looked at closely, but we live in a time where the benevolent are as likely to rule as the hard and corrupt.

  • http://www.illustrationsbyphil.com Phil

    It takes non cooperation by significant companies or masses of individuals. Responsive actions like Wikipedia blacking itself out is what it takes. This is a transparent grab for control of the internet. If ANY concessions are made in the name of (any “good” reason)it will be the end of the web as we know it. We the users must remain vigilant and not allow any feet in any doorways.

  • Dick Smith

    I think Jimmy Wales Wikipedia Blackout is the right thing to do. Big government intrusion is so widespread in America today it’s sickening. You have to draw a line in the sand at some point, and this sounds like a good time to do exactly that!

    • http://www.belfast-architects.co.uk Alan

      Do it, doing nothing is not an option. SOPA is a nonsense and and has little to do with its stated aims.

  • http://www.mindyourbusines.com Emil Pop

    I think they should not blank their pages… not alone and not only in English.

    I expect this to be done also by Google and Facebook and others for one day all together worldwide to show the leaches in power that the power belongs to us that voted them not to them that are our employees, and if they don’t like it they may as well resign and go seek for a decent honest job somewhere else.

    You cannot stop online piracy by putting all the net in a concentration camp status, it is as absurd as the Afghanistan war or the Auschwitz politics of Adolf Hitler.

  • Jack

    How does Wikipedia make money from sites like ThePirateBay? unless they are funding them or something

    More info on leaked Google memo: http://ericschmidtgoogle.blogspot.com/2011/12/we-were-recently-quoted-in-memo-as.html

  • Greg

    I agree with the approach. In addition, why don’t we try to get people to stop watching NBC and post this to all their advertisers. I think a stop watching for one month would get their attention, if not their bottom line.

    • http://karras-bommer.blogspot.com Karras Bommer

      Maybe this idea could go viral. How about we Occupy the Internet…I mean let all the big boys like Google, Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo, let them stop the servers for one day. We could seriously blackout the internet if we all pulled our pages and our domains for one day. Wow, I wonder what would happen.

  • http://morganservice.net Mobile Home Repair DIY

    Yeah, we need just a little bit more government intrusion in our lives. Who needs that pesky Constitution anyway, comrade.

  • http://www.gibernauta.com Ricard Menor

    Wikipedia action may catch people’s eyes but not those writing ideas like SOPA on law books, someone said here before that they are unplugged: I agree.

    Today I got a customer to donate $5000 for Wikimedia Foundation. And Spain’s leaving president just left our spanish SOPA version on the table for the new elected president, when it was intended to be legally functional before Q2 2011. Wikileaks unveiled pressure messages from White House to Spanish government in order to align with SOPA.
    I am happy for the help I got for Wikimedia/Wikipedia and for the controversial SOPA-like “Ley Sinde” being stuck by political hesitation.
    I want to refuse it intellectually, but instinctly I sense a minority using fear to drive the masses to a lower profile of liberty, call me conspiracy paranoid if you feel like.

  • Bev

    As a great-grandmother, I’ve watched over the years as little by little our freedoms have eroded away. I say, DO WHAT YOU CAN within the law to stop anyone and everyone from telling you what to do and say. This is a defining moment in our history and if I were younger, say 25 -30, I’d be in the streets. Our congress is working tirelessly for themselves not the average American. What exactly are YOU going to do? It’s your country!

    • Tech42

      It’s time to recognize that peaceful, “within the law” demonstration isn’t worth the cardboard its signs are printed on.

  • Bob

    Yes, let them do it. We need some sort of OWS on the web to wake up those morons in Congress. Yes it will do good. If you think otherwise you don’t know the power of Wikipedia. Wait until people find out they are unavailable. There will be hell to pay.

  • Al

    How about a free app or browser plugin, available from Wikipedia, that blocks websites that support or implement SOPA?

  • http://dannosblog.com Dan


    “SOPA” Is the worst bill regarding the Internet ever. ‘Blank em’.

    Worse than the ProAct 2008 ~ That ICE & HLS is saying gives the power to seize domains/websites all over the world for the past year or so under the name; “Operation In Our Sites”

    The Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2008 (“PRO-IP Act of 2008″, H.R. 4279



    BTW: hurry to link while you can still see it :)

  • http://www.LAokay.com Steven

    If Wikipedia does that, the search engines will start to de-index the site and we’ll start to see Google’s index shift a bit as Wikipedia does link out to quite a few sites. I say go for it and let’s see what happens. I could care less why they’re doing it, but if they believe it will make the statement they are looking for or have the effect they are looking for, why not?

  • http://mistrtim.com Tim Southernwood

    I think it’s a GREAT idea.. one that will make a major statement to the politicians who intend for this STUPID legislation!

  • http://josephratliff.com Joseph Ratliff

    For NBC to pull this “blackmail” stuff and think there aren’t other choices for their content suppliers seems a bit condescending to me. Have they grown too big for their shorts?

    As for Wikipedia, I think if they do the blackout it would in fact have an impact…so go ahead.

  • Robert Ziegler

    It’s the RIGHT thing to do…so go ahead.

  • http://WebsiteHelpsite.com Dusty

    I’m in favor of the blackout of the Wiki information that people are used to seeing if this bill is overreaching.

    However, I would take it a step further and redirect the user to a page that not only explains the issue in VERY simple terms, but also gives an action plan to the reader, such as “Here are the names, states and phone numbers of the congressmen who voted for this overreaching bill. Call them and tell them a better way to have solved the problem is…”

  • Spam Exterminator

    I think it’s an Awesome idea. Picket the web hmm… Idea Maybe everyone that has a site and all users opposed to SOPA do the same. But instead of blank pages or blacked out pages how about a picket sign. I bet if enough people join it wouldn’t last to long. After all how well would the ones that are for the SOPA last without it’s users. The ones that think it’s too inconvenient would think of it this way a couple of weeks of down time or a life time of being stifled and censored.

    • http://rainbow-websites.com Lydia Glider-Shelley

      How about a landing page making you choose one of two buttons: “I support the SOPA protocol” which would send you back to the last site you were on and away… and the “I do not support the SOPA protocol” which will get you into the site, and clearly show how many people would rather have a free web and let the whiners learn to adapt and make their money the new way since their cash cow is dying.

  • http://rainbow-websites.com Lydia Glider-Shelley

    Frankly it’s about time the good ol’ boys clubs got broken up. It’s time for a new business model, based on the way social media works. A model in which we ALL get royalties, not just some puffed up star and the associated parasites attached to him/her. How about a system where we all earn points, like in a video game… but it gets paid out more like royalties. And layered residuals, MLM style too, while we’re at it. Well this makes a lot more sense than the way the industry has raped their assets, doesn’t it? Of course it does. Don’t YOU want royalties on what YOU do, too? Sure you do. Why wouldn’t you?

  • Jason Freeley

    Best thing to happen to the Internet.

  • http://www.CaptainCyberzone.com CaptainCyberzone

    Bottom-line: who does this action hurt? Perhaps the action is needed in order to get people’s attention and then they’ll act. Let both sides of SOPA present their views and arguements on the same page and offer it up for the netsters vote on it.

  • joe

    Hell Yeah ! HELL YEAH !

  • http://www.searchen.com John

    Yes, Wiki should do it in my opinion and add a message about what it is for. No one is willing to listen or pull their heads out of their rear ends unless they loose something, then all the sudden, everyone is listening. Blanking out Wiki is a good example of how sites will just disapear.,

  • Michael

    The “Entertainment” industry does not have a copyright problem they have a distribution problem.

    In the past they controlled the distribution of the product but now there are other ways and means of distribution and through their own fault they are now missing out.

    They wish to keep things as they were, it’s just business and if it means they use uninformed lawmakers to push their case they will.

    Consider history when the automobile arrived, those that operated horse and buggy businesses lobbied hard for restrictions as they could not compete with what the people wanted

  • http://prilavok-kuzmicha.ru Anton

    Very much even we need in government intrusion.

  • http://www.netscype.com Netscype Gino

    I am a fan of Wikipedia, but it will not matter with the Blackout to Oppose the SOPA act. We live in a “Matrix kind of world”, where people losses the freedom of the internet. And like always, america wants to rule the world and the internet. “Its all about the money”.

  • http://www.ansondigitalconcerns.com Tom

    The idea that Wale’s is fighting censorship with censorship is ludicrous. Blacking out pages of Wikipedia is not censorship. If Wikipedia was a government enterprise, and it blacked out pages, then censorship would apply; but since Wikipedia is a private concern, it should have the freedom of expression to not express itself (even if that expression is from others). Those who feel they are being censored are free to set up their own websites.

  • http://twitter.com/TristanChaika Tristan

    I think if they black out the pages, but also include a short explanation and a phone number for the congress persons people can call (possibly based on their IP address)that would be an excellent form of protest. The entertainment industry has a bazillion lobbyists fighting for them, and something like what Wikipedia is talking about doing would help inform people of what is happening, and generate support and action on the parts of others to fight back.

    I would hope that the message they put out there is informative, factual, and not just wild propaganda. They are an encyclopedia site after all. I would hope they’d use their power for good.

    As far as poor ol’ college students are concerned, The internet won’t be completely shut down, and I’m pretty sure they still have libraries last time I checked. They can get by for a few days.

  • Vic Webber

    ‘Stop Online Piracy Act’. Who are they trying to fool? They really mean ‘Save Our Profits Act’.

    Look at it this way. You bought a new car and now want to sell it or give it away. Is it illegal? NO.
    You bought a copy of ‘Star Wars’ and now want to sell it or give it away. Is it illegal? YES.

    So what is the difference? NOTHING.
    The film makers bleat about ‘intellectual property rights’ while conveniently overlooking the fact that IP Rights also exist on the plans/blueprints for the car! Somebody spent a long time thinking up the ideas behind the car, but they don’t demand payment everytime it is used/sold on by anybody – so why should film makers etc demand payment?

    You want to be really awkward? When you have watched your copy of ‘Star Wars’ etc, SEND IT BACK TO THE PRODUCERS. After all, according to them it is illegal to dispose of it!
    How long before they get fed-up with millions of used CD’s stacking up in their warehouses?

    Go ahead Jimmy, show the world that ‘net users are behind you.

  • http://www.reameasures.com John Burnham

    I think blanking Wikipedia’s pages for a day or three is a great way to illustrate the chilling effects the proposed SOPA would have on dissemination of information and, indeed on free speech. Imagine: If you’re politically connected and have a political or business agenda, all you have to do is have someone in a media outlet that supports you “claim” copyright infringement and you can get your opponents’ website taken down. I can’t believe this would pass the Supreme Court; it’s the government confiscation without due process, and a sever limit on free speech. But it would take a while to work its way there and much damage would be done in the meantime.

    I think the question is, what other websites would be wise to do the same? Maybe if Google or Craigslist or some others also shut down for a day or so, it would really drive the point home.

    Go Jimmy!

  • http://www.mortgage-investments.com Norman

    Don’t you folks get it?
    Don’t expect to influence laws in the USA unless you are prepared to give big bribes, sorry campaign contributions, to the politicians.

    Big corp spend miilions and millions every year getting the laws that THEY want. Screw the peasants.

    They bribed the government into removing the few laws that controlled banking, got into trouble from their own greed and then bribed the government yet again to get them out of trouble with YOUR money.

    How much do you think NBC, Sony and the others have given their favorite politicians to get this law?

    Want a say? Get your check books out.

  • Don

    I like this idea. It introduces more than just a large collection of anti-SOPA e-mails, and will likely get more attention. It would be more powerful if Google ended up doing this, but Wikipedia is another huge website that should get almost as much attention.

  • Sean

    I strongly support any action to stop SOPA, including this proposed Wikipedia action.

    We cannot let our government censor our last open information stream.

  • http://xenolithofreason.blogspot.com Anon

    Yes, yes, YES! Blank Wikipedia! We, the anonymous users of the Internet, must take a collective stance against this atrocity.

    F▓▓▓ SOPA and f▓▓▓ censorship!

  • karen

    You must do something! It may not be the ideal response but any response is better than none. If you dont speak up now you may find you have no chance or rights left to speak up later! All writing is political. All life is political. You cannot opt out. The choice to do nothing is political. So take action or regret no action taken when the chance has passed. Stand up and be counted. Stand up and be noticed. Stand up and draw a line in the sand. Because they are counting on you to do nothing. Suprise them.

  • DrJLD

    There is an awful lot of overblown comments about this possible action and how it involves fighting censorship with censorship.

    What is proposed is not censorship. It merely means turning of the service for awhile. No one has even suggested how long this would last.

    I believe that this would be a good action to take. Congessmen and Senators are so out of touch with voters and their concerns that this might help mobilize enough option to get through their thick heads. Of course, the members of Congress mostly listen to campaign money, which the entertainment industry has likely promised in significant amounts. However, let the public get upset and they may listen to voters. Try it…sitting on one’s own hand is not a good idea if one opposes something so strongly.

  • Richard

    Blank YES, except for two things, where to direct our wrath, and the donation link.

  • http://www.bonusbonusbonus.hk 網上賭場

    A big step for wikipedia :)

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