Google supports, Twitter mocks Wikipedia blackout

Protesting US legislation its says harms Internet freedom, Wikipedia shuts down for a day; Google supports the cause, Twitter calls it "silly."

By REUTERS, JPOST.COM STAFF
January 18, 2012 13:53
2 minute read.
Wikipedia blackout.

Wikipedia blackout 311. (photo credit: Wikipedia)

As Wikipedia, the popular user-written free Internet encyclopedia, blacked out its English-language site for 24 hours on Wednesday to protest US anti-piracy legislation, Internet giant Google added its voice to the cause, but remained operational.

Wikipedia says the legislation, called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the US House of Representatives and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the US Senate, "will harm the free and open Internet and bring about new tools for censorship of international websites inside the United States."

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While Google added a link to its homepage urging Internet searchers to "Tell Congress: Please don't censor the web!" it decided to keep its search engine and other services operational. Other Internet companies like Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter and Ebay have all run ads urging lawmakers to rethink their approach.

Wikipedia's decision to blackout the website in protest for a day emerged from online discussions including over 1,800 "Wikipedians," active members in Wikipedia's online community.

Not every Internet company thought the blackout was so great, however. Twitter CEO Dick Costolo tweeted, "that's just silly. Closing a global business in reaction to single-issue national politics is foolish."

The legislation, which had appeared to be on a fast track for approval by Congress, appears likely to be scaled back or jettisoned entirely in the wake of critical comments over the weekend from the White House, people familiar with the matter said.

The proposed laws have been a major priority for entertainment companies, publishers, pharmaceutical firms and many industry groups, who say it is critical to curbing online piracy that costs them billions of dollars a year.

The legislation is designed to shut down access to overseas websites that traffic in stolen content or counterfeit goods.

Internet companies have furiously opposed the legislation and have ramped up their lobbying efforts in recent months, arguing the legislation would undermine innovation and free speech rights and compromise the functioning of the Internet.

In addition to Wikipedia several popular websites, including the social media site Reddit, have vowed to black out their sites in protest, while Internet advocates called for a boycott of any companies that support the legislation.

With public sentiment on the bill shifting in recent weeks and an implicit veto threat now emerging from the White House, Congressional staffers are resigning themselves to writing replacement language or possibly entirely new bills.

The White House said in a blog post over the weekend that it wouldn't support "legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet."

Three key section of the existing legislation seem likely to remain, a person familiar with the matter says. They comprise provisions aimed at getting search engines to disable links to foreign infringing sites; provisions that cut off advertising services to those sites; and provisions that cut off payment processing.

The debate seems likely to intensify in the coming weeks. The White House said it would soon host a conference call among opponents of the existing bill.


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