Some high profile web sites will be blacked out for 12 hours on Wednesday January 18 in opposition to SOPA, the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act that is currently being considered by Congress in the United States.
Wikipedia joins blackout. A community vote is still being taken about what will happen but at the moment the plan is to redirect to an "education" site.
The strike of prominent websites is being organized to protest proposed legislation that could curtail the freedom of the Internet.
The SOPA bill, introduced in the United States House of Representatives in October, seeks to expands the ability of U.S. law enforcement with a range of sanctions against websites accused of being involved in copyright infringement that include requiring ISP to black access to sites. If the legislation were passed individuals found guilty could face prison sentences of up to 5 years.
Proponents of the bill talk in terms of protecting intellectual property, jobs and revenue while opponents refer to censorship and suggest it would cripple the Internet.
A petition calling on the Obama administration to "Veto the SOPA bill and any other future bills that threaten to diminish the free flow of information" collected 51,689 signatures and a sympathetic response from White House officials. In a statement issued on January 14 Victoria Espinel, Aneesh Chopra, and Howard Schmidt stated:
While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.
To express opposition to the bill, and increase anti-SOPA sentiment in general, several high profile websites, notably reddit, have decided to take a stand by blacking out their websites on January 18th from 8am–8pm EST (1300–0100 UTC).
The freedom, innovation, and economic opportunity that the Internet enables is in jeopardy. Congress is considering legislation that will dramatically change your Internet experience and put an end to reddit and many other sites you use everyday.
Mozilla, Tucows, Twitpic, Boing-Boing and all the Cheezburger sites are other high profile sites that intend to join the strike.
To make the strike really effective its supporters are urging the really big players such as Google, Facebook and Amazon to strike and currently such action is under consideration at Wikipedia, with its founder Jimmy Wales being in favor of protest action.
Already Wales has had success in reducing support fro SOPA - when the domain name registrar, Go Daddy, voiced public support for SOPA Wales announced he would transfer all Wikimedia domains from Go Daddy which then withdrew support for SOPA.
Whether joining strike is the correct action for Wikipedia is currently the subject of a discussion on its site and no doubt many other sites are looking for its decision before deciding their own course of action.
To be effective the strike certainly needs the major players to join it. After all what is the point of discovering that the programming reddit is closed - most technical users already know about SOPA and most likely have a well formed opinion. If the average user discovers Google, FaceBook, Wikipedia or Twitter closed to the world then they might wonder what is going on.
To see the list of sites pledged to support the strike on January 18th, to join in, or to urge websites to join it, go to:
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