The world's largest encyclopedia will go dark on Wednesday in a dramatic protest against two anti-piracy bills being considered by the U.S. Congress, Wikipedia announced on Monday.
Concerned that the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its sister in the Senate, the Protect IP Act, might deal severe damage to the Internet's core architecture and make user-generated sites essentially illegal, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales announced that the blackout would begin as soon as the clock strikes midnight on Tuesday night.
Wales is following social media forum Reddit.com, which plans to go offline at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, and stay shut down until 8 p.m. Reddit’s plans are hardly unique =-- dozens of other companies are rumored to be considering a similar move, including Google -- but they are the first to confirm that their service will go offline for a day.
Instead of their usual hodgepodge of user-submitted content, the site’s front page will be dedicated to a message about how bills before Congress threaten basic Internet freedoms, and a not-so-subtle suggestion that users contact their representatives.
Wednesday was also supposed to be the day that tech elites had their say in Congress, during a now-canceled hearing that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) scrapped at the last moment, once SOPA sponsor Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) said he would withdraw a controversial segment of the bill's text.
Thanks to the uproar from Silicon Valley and online activists, both President Barack Obama and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) ultimately expressed a need for caution and consensus with such wide-ranging legislation, and the bill is not expected to come up in the House for a full vote any time soon.