Wikipedia defends decision to blackout

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    In this Nov. 1, 2011 file photo, Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia speaks during the opening session at the London Cyberspace Conference in London. Wikipedia will black out the English language version of its website Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012, to protest anti-piracy legislation under consideration in Congress, the foundation behind the popular community-based online encyclopedia said in a statement Monday night. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, file)

    Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has defended his decision to shut down the online encyclopedia for 24 hours tomorrow in protest against Internet piracy bills before the US Congress, in an interview with the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

    The webmasters of sites like Reddit and the blog Boing Boing, who share Wales’ opposition to the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), will also go offline on Wednesday, according to the BBC.

    Twitter chief Dick Costolo, however, has decided not to participate in the shutdown.

    “The general sentiment seemed to be that US law, as it impacts the Internet, can affect everyone,” Wales told the Daily Telegraph.

    “As for me, what I am hoping is that people outside the US who have friends or family who are voters in the US, will ask them to make a call to their senator or representative, and I hope we send a broad global message that the Internet as a whole will not tolerate censorship in response to mere allegations of copyright infringement,” he continued.

    SOPA has effectively been halted by opposition from the Obama administration, while reports in the Washington Post indicate that SOPA’s key sponsors may back down over the bills’ most controversial aspects.

    Nevertheless, Wales intends to go ahead with the shutdown anyway, pulling the Internet’s sixth most popular destination offline and leaving its 25 million daily visitors stranded for 24 hours from midnight (EST) tonight, the Guardian reports.

    Visitors to the site will encounter an open letter urging them to contact Congress to protest against the anti-piracy laws, which critics say are too broad, reaching outside US jurisdiction and imposing unfair burdens on websites to check that none of the material they host infringes copyright.

    Wales also told the Daily Telegraph that the decision to enforce a global blackout as opposed to a US-only shutdown was the result of a relatively close ballot among the Wikipedia community:

    “The community vote on the choice of US-only blackout versus global blackout was 479 to 591 in favour of going global, so while there was a solid majority, it wasn’t the overwhelming majority that we had for the whole concept,” he said.

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